Defensive-Minded Squads Lock Horns as 'Jacks Battle West Virgini - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Defensive-Minded Squads Lock Horns as 'Jacks Battle West Virginia in Opening Round of NCAA Tourney

From SFA Athletics

BROOKLYN, NY- THE STARTING LINEUP

• Propelled by a nation-leading 20-game winning streak and by way of a third-consecutive Southland Conference Tournament title, the Stephen F. Austin men’s basketball team sets off on a journey of some 1,509 miles to face No. 8-ranked West Virginia in an NCAA Tournament first-round game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Friday night. The West region clash beteween the 14th-seeded ‘Jacks and the third-seeded Mountaineers will tip-off at 7:10 p.m. ET on CBS with Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel and Allie LaForce handling play-by-play responsibilities of SFA’s fifth-ever NCAA Tournament game. Also making the trip to New York is Rob Meyers, who will have the courtside call of the game on Q107.7 FM in Nacogdoches and online at q1077.com.

• Now a perfect three-for-three in reaching the NCAA Tournament during his tenure as a Division I head coach, Brad Underwood has been directly responsible for 75-percent of SFA’s NCAA Tournament appearance and has directed the program to its lone tournament win - a 77-75 overtime victory over number-five seeded VCU in San Diego, Calif., on March 21, 2014. That victory was aided by a four-point play by then-senior Desmond Haymon (who is now SFA’s video coordinator) in the waning seconds to force an overtime session.

• An elite plateau has been reached by the Lumberjacks after their regular-season ending victory at Sam Houston State last Saturday night. With that win, SFA’s total number of triumphs rose to 25, marking the fourth-straight season that the ‘Jacks have won 25 or more games. Just five other NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams aside from SFA - Arizona, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan State and Wichita State - have racked up 25 or more wins in each of the last four seasons.

• The 27 victories amassed by SFA so far in 2015-16 stand as the program’s fifth-highest single-season win total. Of the seven teams that have amassed 27 or more triumphs in a single season, Underwood has been in charge of three of them.

MOST WINS IN A SINGLE SEASON • PROGRAM HISTORY
1. 32-3 | .914 | 2013-14 | Brad Underwood 
2. 31-3 | .910 | 1971-72 | Marshall Brown
3. 29-1 | .966 | 1969-70 | Marshall Brown
4. 29-5 | .853 | 2014-15 | Brad Underwood
T5. 27-3 | .900 | 1967-68 | Marshall Brown
T5. 27-5 | .843 | 2012-13 | Danny Kaspar
T5. 27-5 | .843 | 2015-16 | Brad Underwood

• Stephen F. Austin and West Virginia are meeting for the first time on the hardwood on Friday night. The ‘Jacks add a foe from another conference to their growing list of NCAA Tournament adversaries, too, as it marks their first tourney tilt against a Big 12 enemy. SFA’s last win against a Big 12 institution occured in 2012 when the ‘Jacks rolled into Norman, Okla., and handed Oklahoma a 56-55 setback. Of note in that tilt, Buddy Hield was a freshman during that season, giving the Naismith Player of the Year candidate and the 2015-16 Big 12 Player of the Year an 0-1 record against SFA.

SCOUTING THE MOUNTAINEERS

• Similar styles are set to oppose one another as two of the nation’s finest defensive teams take center stage. Known by the apt moniker of “Press Virginia,” the No. 8-ranked Mountaineers employ a harassing full-court press to wear down the opposition. That style had yielded some impressive results through the course of Bob Huggins’ storied tenure in Morgantown, including in this season where the his squad began the season unranked and otherwise unheralded before garnering a number-three seed by the selection committee following a runner-up finish to Kansas in the Big 12 Championship Tournament.

• Of the Mountaineers eight setbacks, only one occurred against a squad that didn’t make it to the 2016 NCAA Tournament. Five of the remaining six setbacks came at the hands of teams who hold either number-one or number-two seeds in the tournament. Two of the eight losses were dealt by Texas who has gained a number-six seed in the tournament.

• Just one of the intriguing storylines in this season’s NCAA Tournament, Bob Huggins andBrad Underwood go back all the way to 1988 when the former was the head coach at Akron and the latter was serving as the head man at Dodge City Community College. In 2006, Huggins hired Underwood as his director of basketball operations at Kansas State, giving the ‘Jacks current head coach his first job at the Division I level.

• The defensive numbers for the Mountaineers are impressive: an NCAA-leading steals per game average (9.9), second in the nation in offensive rebounding (15.91/game) and second only to the ‘Jacks in turnovers forced (18.15/game). Getting to the free throw line is of paramount importance to Huggy Bear’s crew, too, as they sit in second place nationally with 945 total free throw attempts.

• Both Jaysean Page and Devin Williams carved out spots for themselves on the All-Big 12 Second Team while Jevon Carter was one of six Big 12 players named to the league’s All-Defensive Team.

REVIEWING SFA vs. TEXAS A&M-CORPUS CHRISTI

• A minor bump in the road - coming in the form of a 6-0 run by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to start the game - was one of the only rough patches the ‘Jacks faced in the Southland Conference Tournament championship game as SFA held the Islanders without a field goal for 9:59 in the first half while embarking on a 31-6 run over a 9:10 stretch in that opening stanza en route to the program’s third-straight victory in the league tournament title bout - this one by an 82-60 tally.

• A total of three Lumberjacks - Thomas Walkup, Demetrious Floyd and Clide Geffrard - earned spots on the Southland Conference All-Tournament team as a direct results of their efforts through the two-game set in Katy, Texas.

• Demetrious Floyd swished one three-pointer in the skirmish, bringing his single-season total to 94. That ties the program record for triples in a single season. Additionally, those 94 triples signify the 10th-most in a single season in Southland Conference history. The product of St. Louis, Mo., has sunk 42.9-percent of his triples this year, too, which stands as the fifth-best single-season percentage in Southland Conference history.

• Walkup turned in a 19-point performance, upping his season point total to 561. In the process, he broke a 27-year-old program record for points in a single season, surpassing Scott Dimak’s 557 markers scored in the 1988-89 season.

• By passing out three assists without committing a turnover, Trey Pinkney elevanted his season’s assist-to-turnover ratio to 4.11 - the second-highest in the nation.

• For the 20th time in 2015-16 and for the seventh-straight game, the ‘Jacks amassed more than 20 points off of opponent throwaways. SFA  forced 20 turnovers and notched 26 points off of them

• Geffrard finished with 18 points and two rebounds shy of a double-double performance. Heading into the game, he was 12-for-12 at the free throw stripe in SLC Tournament games but misfired on one of his seven attempts giving him a lifetime 18-19 showing from the stripe in Katy.

ANATOMY OF AN UPSET

• West Virginia has not won a game at Barclays Center. The Mountaineers fell 81-66 to Michigan on 12/15/12 in their only game in the facility so far.

• All but one of the 20 all-time 14-seed over three-seed upsets have occurred by fewer than 10 points.

• 13 of the 20 upsets were by five points or less.

• Of the 20 upsets, three have been sprung over Big 12 institutions  - the most recent of which came last season when Iowa State lost to UAB.

• SFA is in search of its first upset win as a number-14 seed. Its last 14-seed appearance in the tournament resulted in a 59-44 setback to Syracuse back in 2009.

• Should SFA win, it would be the second time a 14th-seeded Southland Conferece school upset a number-three seed. Northwestern Statedefeated Iowa in a similar seeding matchup in 2006. SFA is playing their game just one day after the 10-year anniversary of the Demons’ upset.

DEFENSE

• 95.7 |  On Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency - which tabulates points allowed per 100 possessions - the ‘Jacks rank 30th out of 351 NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams with a mark of 95.7. You’d have to go down to 122nd place to find the next closest Southland Conference squad (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 101.2).

• 63.2 |  Just 14 teams in the entirety of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball ranks possess a better scoring defense than Stephen F. Austin. The ‘Jacks are holding their opponents to a Southland Conference-leading mark of just 63.2 points per game - a number that ranks 15th in the nation.

• +6.2 | SFA’s nation-leading turnover margin in 2015-16. Opponents of the ‘Jacks are throwing the ball away at a rate of 18.63 per game - another NCAA Division I-leading figure.

• 28% | Of the 2,583 points scored by the ‘Jacks in 2015-16, almost one third - or 29.2-percent of them - have come directly off of opponent turnovers. The 18.58 turnovers forced per game lead to an average of 23.6 points per game by the Lumberjacks.

• 9.0 | Thievery of the basketball is another way the ‘Jacks fluster their opponents as SFA averaged 9.1 steals per game. SFA is 3-0 against teams that ranks in the top 10 in steals per game this year as Texas A&M-Corpus Christi ranked among the top 10 all year.

• 26.7 | Over the last 13 games, the ‘Jacks have ratcheted up their defensive intensity from beyond the arc. During that span, the ‘Jacks enemies are connecting on just 27.6-percent (58-of-217) of their downtown tries and SFA’s three-point field goal defense has risen to just outside the top fifth in the nation (62nd, 32.3%).

• 7 | In seven of the ‘Jacks 24 wins this season, SFA has forced a higher number of turnovers than their opponents’ final made field goal total.

Date Opponent FGs TOs

12/8 Henderson State 21 27

12/12 Arkansas Tech 18 25

12/19 Our Lady of the Lake 19 23

1/18 at New Orleans 17 18

1/25 Lamar 22 20

2/15 Incarnate Word 17 19

2/27 Houston Baptist 21 25

WINS

• 115 | With a 79-58 win at Lamar on Feb. 22, seniors Trey Pinkney and Thomas Walkupsupplanted former teammate and friend Jake Parker as the all-time winningest players in the history of Stephen F. Austin men’s basketball. Since getting historic win number 109, they have reeled off six more to bring their win total to 115. Those also stand as the most wins by any players in the history of the Southland Conference.

• 230 | Combined, Pinkney and Walkup have 230 wins to their credit. That’s the most by an active backcourt duo in all of NCAA Division I men’s basketball. Second on that list are Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker who possess 224 wins altogether.

• 60 | From the 2012-13 season through the present day, Stephen F. Austin is the owner of the nation’s best home court winning percentage. The ‘Jacks have gone 60-1 at home since the 2012-13 season for a winning percentage of .984.

• 20 | With a win at Nicholls on Feb. 20, the ‘Jacks locked up their fourth-consecutive 20-win season. Since 2007-08, SFA has amassed 20 or more wins in every season but one. No team in the history of the Southland Conference has more 20 win seasons than SFA (10).

• 28 | Since a 79-77 overtime loss to Northern Iowa on November 18, 2014, the ‘Jacks haven’t experienced a home setback. In that time, SFA has reeled off 28-straight victories in William R. Johnson Coliseum which stands as the fourth-longest active home winning streak in the nation behind only Kansas (41), Kentucky (36) and South Dakota State (29).

• 27 | The 27 wins racked up by the ‘Jacks this season are tied for the 10th-most among all 351 NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams. They’re also tied for the fifth-most in a single season in Stephen F. Austin’s basketball history.

• 24.0 | Through the course of that 28-game home court winning streak, the ‘Jacks have outscored their opponents by 672 points and their margin of victory has been by an average of 24 points.

• 25 | SFA has won 25 consecutive Southland Conference games which stands as the second-longest winning streak in conference tilts in the league’s history. The ‘Jacks now own the longest and second-longest in-conference win streaks in league history with their streak of 32-straight SLC wins from 2/20/13 until 2/14/15 standing as the longest in the history of the 13-team league.

• 10 | The ‘Jacks have held opponents in 10 of their 18 Southland Conference wins this season to under 60 points. 

• 0 | Between the five members of the ‘Jacks five-member senior class, there have been exactly zero home Southland Conference losses. Pinkney and Walkup have constructed a home conference record of 36-0 in their careers, which is one of just 11 times across all of NCAA Division I college basketball since the 1996-97 season that a senior class has gone all four years without losing a conference home game.

CHAMPIONSHIPS

• 4 | By way of an 82-54 victory over Houston Baptist in their final home game of the season on Saturday, Feb. 27, the ‘Jacks laid claim to their fourth-straight Southland Conference regular season title. SFA became the second SLC institution to emerge as the regular season champs in four consecutive seasons, joining Lamar who did it for the first time from 1978-81. SFA holds an important distinction over the Cardinals, though, as in their following game the ‘Jacks became the first SLC team ever to win four-straight outright conference titles. Lamar’s first crown in the four-peat was shared.

• 6 | All six of the Southland Conference regular season title captured by the ‘Jacks have come in or since the 2007-08 campaign. Brad Underwood (2014, 2015, 2016) has three of those titles while former SFA head man and current Texas State bench boss Danny Kaspar claimed the other three (2008, 2009, 2013). Those six regular season title are tied for the third-most with McNeese State in the history of the Southland Conference. Lamar leads the way with nine league crowns and former SLC member Louisiana-Monroe owns seven.

• 49 | The ‘Jacks gained admittance to an exclusive club on February 27, becoming just the 49th NCAA Division I men’s basketball team since 1900 to capture at least four-straight regular season league titles. Three other teams from around the nation join the ‘Jacks as winners of at least four regular season conference titles in a row. They include Belmont, High Point, and - most notably - Kansas (12 Big XII regular season crowns in a row).

EVERY WAY LIKE MJ

• It was a good day for Thomas Walkup as he - to paraphrase rapper Ice Cube - messed around and registered Stephen F. Austin’s first triple-double in 43 years in the ‘Jacks 84-58 Monday night romp over Incarnate Word in the Alamo City. The senior out of Pasadena, Texas, had a double-double by halftime and finished with 12 points, a career-high 15 rebounds and a career-high 10 assists - the last of which came on a fast-break dunk by fellow senior Clide Geffrard just 9:38 into the final stanza. Walkup’s triple-double was the first by a Southland Conference player since 2011.

• Once on the court, Walkup was indeed trouble for the Cardinals as he needed just 28 minutes to complete his triple-double. That’s the second-fewest number of minutes needed to complete one of college basketball’s 27 triple-doubles this season. Milwaukee’s Jordan Johnson and UConn’s Daniel Hamilton each had a triple-double in 27 minutes of playing time earlier in 2015-16. 

• Additionally, Walkup also finished with a game-high five steals to become just the second NCAA Division I men’s basketball player in the last 20 years to have at least 10 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists and five steals in a game. Prior to Walkup, UConn’s Ben Gordon did it against Iona on Dec. 20, 2003.

UPPER CRUST OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL

• Of the 32 statistical categories kept by the NCAA, the Stephen F. Austin men’s basketball team is among the top seven-percent of the nation’s 351 NCAA DI teams in 11 of them. For a full list of where SFA ranks in the national stats rankings, consult page four.

THE MARGIN ISN’T AN ERROR

• There isn’t another NCAA Division I men’s basketball team that possesses a higher in-conference scoring differential than the ‘Jacks. SFA has defeated league foes by an average of 23.2 points per game. Wichita State, out of the Missouri Valley Conference, has the next highest in-league scoring differential at +19.1 followed by Stony Brook (+14.4) and Yale (+12.5).

HOME SWEET...ROAD?

• No matter where the ‘Jacks have found themselves doing battle against Southland Conference opponents in the Brad Underwood coaching era - at home or on the road - the result has been an SFA win all but once. In road games against SLC adversaries, the ‘Jacks are 26-1 in that span their conference road winning percentage (.963) is higher that the home winning percentage of every other Southland Conference team.
 

DELTA DELTA DELTA

• The fourth letter in the Greek alphabet has three sides, and three is a number the ‘Jacks have molded a big part of their offense around. Once again, the three-pointer is being utilized as a primary weapon for SFA. Of their 2,583 points scored, 762 of them - or 29.5-percent - have come by way of the long-range basket. On average, SFA hits 7.9 long balls per tilt which is the best per-game figure in the Southland Conference and the 83rd-best in the nation.

CAN I HELP YA, HELP YA, HELP YA?

• One season ago, no team in NCAA Division I men’s basketball was more comfortable sharing the rock than the Lumberjacks as SFA led the nation in assists per game (17.8 per game) and that trend hasn’t changed a bit in 2015-16. As of this writing, SFA leads the 13-team Southland Conference and is second in the nation with an assists per game average of 18.9.
 

MISTER DYMANITE

• Throughout his career, James Brown adopted the above moniker and was also regularly described as the hardest working man in show business. Senior Thomas Walkup is arguably the hardest working man in the Southland Conference as he received just two offers out of high school - one to Houston Baptist and one to SFA. Four years later, his hard work has yielded the label of self-made player, a pair of All-American nods as well as backto-back Southland Conference Player of the Year citation.

• Walkup ranks among the top ten in the Southland Conference in no fewer than eight statistical categories. His 17.5 points per game leads SFA and his .598 field goal percentage ranks 24th among all NCAA Division I players while his 2.09 steals per game stands as the 20th-highest average among all DI student-athletes.

• KenPom | It doesn’t take a basetkball genius like Ken Pomeroy to see that Walkup is one of the best players in the nation, but adding number to what the naked eye can already witness sure doesn’t hurt. When looking at at least 24% and 20% of possession’s used, Walkup’s ORtg of 133.1 is the best in the nation and that ORtg is the fourth-best among all NCAA Division I men’s basketball players.

THE BIG SMOOTH

• Coming off the bench in all but two of the ‘Jacks 32 confrontations this season, senior Clide Geffrard has needed just submitted his name as a candidate for Southland Conference Player of the Year by morphing into one of the most consistent players among the ‘Jacks ranks.

• Geffrard has scored at least 10 points in 27 of his 32 outings this season which included a stretch of 15-straight games from Dec. 8, 2015, until Feb. 13, 2016.

• A memorable three-game stretch in Nashville by the senior only served to validate his status as one of the best off the bench in the Southland Conference. Against Western Michigan, the Pompano Beach,Fla., product reset his career high by slinging in 21 points in the ‘Jacks win over the Broncos. The next evening against Tulane, he conjured up a 20-point, eight-rebound outing. That marked his first back-to-back stretch of scoring 20+ points in his SFA career. When diving deeper into the numbers, Geffrard has thrived coming off the bench in an SFA uniform. In five career starts as a ‘Jack, Geffrard has drilled just seven of his 34 field goal attempts (.206 shooting percentage). When the forward steps foot on any court off the bench, he has shot .522 (188-360) and contributed 11.2 points per game to the ‘Jacks cause.

Brad Underwood Pre-Tournament Press Conference

Opening Statement

Brad Underwood: We're very excited about the opportunity to be here again. It's our third year in a row, and I'm extremely happy for the five seniors that were on this year's team. For them, they've set a great, great foundation for our program, a culture of work, and to be able to finish the year as conference champions and go 18-0, gut it up for two games. You talk about pressure is knowing you have to win two more to come to the tournament. But I couldn't be happier for that group, as they're very deserving.

It's a great challenge, playing a very good friend, who has a tremendous basketball team, finishing second in the Big 12. Arguably, the best conference in basketball. So I have tremendous respect for Bob and the job that he and his staff have done. They play very, very hard, and we're going to have to match that effort tomorrow.

Q. You mentioned Coach Huggins. In the one year you spent working with him in '06/'07 at Kansas State, what are some of the things that you picked up from him?
Brad Underwood: Well, there's two things that Huggs did that were unbelievably impressive to me. One is, as a head coach, I've never been around or had seen anyone who spent as much time recruiting as he did, as a head coach. Fabulous, fabulous recruiter and spent tremendous time.

The other thing is he's the single best communicator with people and with players that I've ever seen. Just had an unbelievable way of effecting young men in a positive way and can get on him and get the best out of them on the basketball court and then just so caring and so involved in their everyday life. It's a reason he's been successful and as a hall of fame coach approaching 800 wins. His players love him to death, and it was a great learning experience for me.

Q. Coach, I just wondered, you've got to tell us your best Huggins story.
Brad Underwood: Wow, I can get in a lot of trouble with this. No, I don't know if I would get into a whole lot of that. There's so many. There's one thing about Huggs that people don't realize because they see the intense, the passion, and yet he's a guy that is probably as easy to work for as anybody out there, and literally laughter is a part of his everyday life. I just photobombed one of his interviews over here and jumped in it just because I knew he'd do it to me, and it's something that he's funny. He's so magnetic.

And I'm going to say this on a serious note, he's got such a magnetic personality. When he left Kansas State to go to West Virginia, he impacted so many people's lives, and one of those was my wife's. I look over, and she's crying when he's getting on the plane to head out. There's very few people who can do that. That's probably not a story that's funny, but it's so meaningful because it's who he is as a person. I think he's impacted a lot of people's lives, not just as players.

Q. Brad, I guess two parts. West Virginia has its reputation for its up tempo or its pressure defense. Your team pressures a lot. I guess, for people who maybe haven't seen as much as your team, what's the difference between the pressures? And the other part of that, in a game like this as a coach, as much as you want to value the basketball, do you have to sort of accept that there are going to be some turnovers here.
Brad Underwood: I hope there's not, and I hope there is. No, we're different in this way. West Virginia, they're unbelievable in the full court, and it's not the way they press. It's the effort with which they do it with, and it's unrelenting for 40 minutes. They play so hard. A lot of people press, but it doesn't work.

I like to think that we pick up full court some. We mix up our defenses in the full court. But ours is more half-court oriented, taking passing lanes away, denial. We have a young man in Trey Pinkney at the point who's as good on the ball defender as I've been around in my time as a coach. But it's a culmination of we don't want anybody to have any one possession easy, whether it's a baseline out, whether it's a sideout. There's total pressure on the offense the entire time. And over the course of 40 minutes, we've been able to force turnovers because of the little things -- loose balls, taking charges, diving on the floor. All those things are things that we take a great deal of pride in and we have to do tomorrow and win those battles if we're going to be successful.

Q. Coach, first off, final score Yale won 71-75. Wanted to get your final thoughts on stopping Devin Williams. He had 31 against Kansas in his last game. It seems like that will be a big focus for your team defensively in the half-court.
Brad Underwood: I don't know if you stop him. One thing he does an unbelievable job is he plays to contact. So he gets to the foul line a great deal. And then when you've got a team that has -- is number 1 in the country in offensive rebound percentage in terms of getting the ball back, that's a great start. Try to keep him off the foul line. Try to make his touches hard. And then block him out.

Now, a lot of people have tried that, and it's a credit to Devin because he's been successful in most every game out there. So very good player. We're going to have to work. We're going to throw a lot of bodies at him. We're not going to do it with one person. Sometimes the best post defense is good perimeter defense. So we've got to make ourselves active and then just try to limit his touches the best we can and make sure we get a solid block out on him.

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