From SFA Athletics
NACOGDOCHES, TX (Press Release)- One of the biggest rivalries in the Southland Conference and the state of Texas is hitting the hardwood for the first time of the 2015-16 academic year this Saturday evening inside William R. Johnson Coliseum. The Stephen F. Austin women’s basketball team opens a Battle of the Piney Woods doubleheader with rival Sam Houston State at 4:00 p.m. in what is expected to be a hostile environment with a near capacity crowd. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3 and available on the WatchESPN app.
• There wouldn’t be a better way to get back on track after a slow start to conference play with a rivalry win in front of the home fans. That is what the Ladyjacks will be trying to do on Saturday night after falling to 1-5 in SLC action to begin the year. SFA dropped another tight one on Thursday night against Lamar, representing the program’s fifth straight league defeat. It is the longest SLC losing streak for the ‘Jacks since the 2004-05 season when that team ended the year with six consecutive losses.
• With the exception of an 85-70 loss to first place Abilene Christian on Jan. 16, each SLC setback for SFA in its current slump has come by single digits. The ‘Jacks lost to Central Arkansas by two points, New Orleans by one and Lamar by four during the stretch. For the season, SFA has lost seven games by 10 points or fewer.
• Junior guard Taylor Ross has shouldered a bulk of the scoring load this season and has stepped up even more since the Ladyjacks lost sophomore forward Stevi Parker for the season with an injury on Jan. 7. Over the last three games, Ross is averaging 20.3 points on 54.5 percent shooting from the field. She dropped a team-high 23 points on Thursday night against Lamar with an efficient 7-for-10 effort from the floor. She went 8-of-9 from the free throw line to help tally her sixth 20-point performance of the season.
• The absence of Stevi Parker has been apparent in SLC play. The sophomore was a rebounding machine and posted a double-double in each of her first two league games to start 2016. Without her 7.9 rebounds per game, SFA has fallen to last place in the conference in defensive rebounds per game (20.0) through six contests. The Ladyjacks have remained strong on the offensive glass, however, averaging 14.7 offensive boards in league action – the third best mark in the SLC.
• Junior guard Brentney Branch knocked down a buzzer-beating three-pointer right before the half on Thursday night against Lamar. With the make, she has now converted a triple in all 16 games played during the 2015-16 season – the best streak on the team. She’s firing at a 40.9-percent clip from deep on the year.
• Senior guard Taylor Schippers boasts the best assist/turnover ratio during conference play this season. She has dished out 22 assists while turning it over just six times in six SLC games for a ratio of 3.7. The next best mark is 2.4 (Jayln Johnson – McNeese). Schippers has a team-high 61 assists to her name overall on the year.
• Freshman Chanell Hayes was a big spark off the bench on Thursday night against Lamar. She scored 10 first half points to help the Ladyjacks start their comeback charge. The guard led the team with seven rebounds as well, coming near double-double territory in just 17 minutes played.
A LOOK AT SAM HOUSTON STATE
• The Ladyjacks are 64-11 all-time against Sam Houston State entering the 76th meeting of the rivalry. The Bearkats were responsible for one of the Ladyjacks' two losses in conference play last season as SFA went 16-2 to win the SLC regular season championship. SFA made up for the 65-64 January loss by beating SHSU, 79-65, at home in the final game of the regular season in March. Five Ladyjacks, including Taylor Ross, Brentney Branch and Charisma Alexander, scored in double digits in the victory to help SFA close the regular season with 11 straight wins.
• After starting the conference slate at 3-1, Sam Houston State has lost three straight games to fall back to seventh place in the SLC standings. The Bearkats have lost to Nicholls by four, McNeese by three and Abilene Christian by 11 in their current slump. Their three wins have come against Incarnate Word, Southeastern Louisiana and New Orleans. SHSU was picked to finish 10th in the league in both SLC preseason coaches and SID polls.
• The Bearkats are led by senior guard Shernise Robertson, who leads the SLC in scoring this season with 17.9 points per game. Senior teammate Angela Beadle is also having a solid year, nearly averaging a double-double with 13.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. She tied a school record with eight blocks on Thursday night against ACU.
• The Ladyjacks will hit the road again next Saturday for an early game at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Due to the conference’s ESPN3 broadcast, first tip is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. in what will be SFA’s only game of the week.