NACOGDOCHES, Texas (Press Release) - There were a few more frayed nerves than usual, and it was anything but easy, but the Stephen F. Austin men's basketball team found a way to extend one of the nation's longest home court winning streak to 29 games in front of a national audience.
Sophomore TJ Holyfield exploded for a 21-point, 14-rebound double-double and fellow second-year man Nathan Bain provided a tie-breaking tip-in with 1:06 remaining to put the 'Jacks on top for good in a 66-60 victory over Longwood on Tuesday morning in ESPN's College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon.
For the second time in three years, William R. Johnson Coliseum served as the backdrop of a Tip-Off Marathon tilt, but unlike that showdown two years ago against Northern Iowa, SFA came out on top in this one. The win came thanks in large part to Holyfield, an Albuquerque, N.M., product who put forth his first collegiate double-double effort and also registered career highs in points and rebounds.
Dallas Cameron, the lone senior on SFA's roster, contributed 12 points to the 'Jacks' efforts which resulted in the 29th-straight home win in their 43-year-old basketball facility. SFA has tied South Dakota State for the third-longest active home court win streak in the land and improved to 1-3 in games televised on ESPN2.
"I thought it was a great environment and that crowd willed us to a win with the energy they brought this morning," said SFA head coach Kyle Keller who emerged as the victor in his first-ever home game at the helm of the 'Jacks' program. "They pushed us to the finish line because right now we are still trying to figure out who we are."
That early-season identity crisis manifested itself in 23 turnovers compared to just 10 assists for the home team, but those throwaways were offset by a 46.7-percent (7-for-15) showing from long distance as well as a 21-for-27 outing at the foul line.
SFA was able to manufacture 24 points off of Longwood's 22 throwaways, and won the battle of the board by a 37-25 margin.
Accustomed to engaging in an early-morning roundball showdown at least once a year after a pair of previous appearances on ESPN's College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, the 'Jacks found themselves battling both a sluggish starts as well as the Lancers early on. Cameron put in the 'Jacks' first point with a three-point hit at the 16:47 mark and that put SFA up for most of the half.
Longwood, which was making a bid for just its fifth non-conference road win since the 2012-13 season, asserted itself with a 10-2 run to move up 27-25 late in the first frame. With that, the 'Jacks turned to Holyfield who went on a personal 7-0 to close the half and put SFA on top 31-27.
Wasting little time in extending their lead once the second half commenced, SFA received long-range hits from Ivan Canete and Isaiah Traylor as well as a fast-break layup from Augustin which pushed its lead to 39-32 five minutes in.
The three-point barrage, however, was anything but on sided as the Lancers answers back with consecutive three-pointers off the mitts of Kendrick Thompson and Darrion Allen. Those downtown swishes represented the large majority of a 13-2 run that pushed the Lancers up 47-45 and set the stage for a dramatic finish.
Leon Gilmore III threw down a two-handed dunk off of an inbounds pass from Cameron with 8:53 to go which put an end to a stretch of over 5:00 minutes in which SFA didn't hit a field goal.
Trailing 57-55 with 3:42 remaining, Bain snared the first of his two game-changing offensive rebounds before striding to the foul line and sinking both of his tries to knot the score for the ninth time. Those free throws were the first two points in an 11-3 run to close the game and of those 11 points all but two came from the charity stripe.
Isaiah Walton poured in 15 for the Lancers while Darrion Allen and Isaac Benton added 12 and 11 respectively.