NACOGDOCHES, TX (Press Release)
FAST BREAK POINTS
• The only team in the nation with 50 or more road wins since the 2011-12 season is set to do battle away from its home digs yet again as the Stephen F. Austin men's basketball squad (3-4) makes for the bustling metropolis of Houston, Texas, for a Saturday night matchup with Rice (6-2) inside Tudor Fieldhouse. Tip-off in the first meeting between the Lumberjacks and Owls since 2001 is set for 7:00 p.m. and the showdown will be streamed live on CUSA.tv. In addition to the Lumberjacks' players, coaches and staff, longtime SFA play-by-play man Rob Meyers is set to make the trip to Houston and will be joined on the Q107.7 FM broadcast by Tyler DePascal. The duo's call of the game can be accessed online at q1077.com and via the TuneIn app.
• In the all-time series between the 'Jacks and Owls which dates back to 1928, SFA has been the visiting team on eight occasions. A win on Saturday night would be SFA's first road win of the season and signify the 'Jacks' first triumph inside Tudor Fieldhouse in 65 years.
• Since the 1990-91 campaign, there have only been six seasons in which Stephen F. Austin hasn't secured a true road win before the start of the new year. The last time this happened was in 2015-16 when the 'Jacks fell in their first four true road game of the season before embarking on a nation-best nine game winning streak in road games.
• SFA's free throw rate (free throws attempted/field goals attempted) is the 23rd-best in the nation according to KenPom.com.
• Through a 6-2 start, the Owls are leading the 14-team Conference USA in no fewer than six statistical categories including free throw attempts per game, free throws made per game, scoring offense, three-point field goals per game, three-point field goal percentage and total three-point field goals made. Rice's points per game average of 85.8 is the 20th-best in the nation and the Owls have gotten 79.9-percent of their 2016-17 point total from their five regular starters.
• Armed with an offensive arsenal that includes the ninth most prolific scorer in the nation, Rice is not suffering in terms of point production. Sophomore guard Marcus Evans is putting in points at a rate of 23.1 per game to lead both the Owls and C-USA. The reigning C-USA Freshman of the Year leads the 14-team league in free throw attempts (80) as well as free throw makes (61). Those 61 free throw makes represent 32.4-percent of his 2016-17 point total.
• Much of the reason why the Owls ranks 33rd nationally in three-point field goal accuracy has to do with the play of redshirt junior Egor Koulechov. The Russian - formerly a player at Arizona State - had sizzled from downtown thus far, putting in 56.1-percent of his long range tries. That percentage leads C-USA and ranks sixth among all NCAA Division I men's basketball players.
• Saturday night marks the third meeting between the Owls and an opponent from the Southland Conference in 2016-17. In their first two showdowns against Southland Conference foes, Rice came out on top. First, it traveled to San Antonio and handed Incarnate Word an 87-79 loss in the McDermott Convocation Center and on the final day of November Rice captured a 90-77 win at home over Houston Baptist.
• One area where the Owls have been vulnerable is in the painted area. Opponents of Rice have gotten 36.3-percent of their points from inside the paint and are averaging 27.5 points per game in the paint against the Owls. Houston Baptist took advantage of this fact the most, getting 44 of its 77 points in the paint. Breaking down Rice's opponent point total even further, the Owls' foes get 20.3-percent of their points off of turnovers.
LAST TIME OUT
• For the first time since Nov. 18, 2014, a team other than Stephen F. Austin captured a win inside the walls of William R. Johnson Coliseum as visiting UAB - making its first-ever trip to Nacogdoches - shot a school record 72.1-percent to secure an 84-73 win and snap the nation's third-longest active home court winning streak in the process.
• Not only did the Blazers win, their victory came by double-digits. Prior to Wednesday night's tilt, the last time an SFA opponent captured a double-digit victory in William R. Johnson Coliseum was on March 2, 2011, when Sam Houston State exited with a 55-40 triumph in tow.
• A little less than half of SFA's 73 points - 49.3-percent of them to be precise - came from its bench. That's the highest percentage of points from the bench in a game by the 'Jacks since Feb. 27, 2016, when 51.2-percent of their 82-point output in a home win over Houston Baptist came from bench players.
• Of SFA's 36 bench points on Wednesday night, all but three of them came from the combination of freshman Kevon Harris and junior Leon Gilmore III. The latter registered a team and career-high 17 points in 7-for-12 shooting, giving him his second outing of 10+ points in a Stephen F. Austin uniform.
• Harris was impressive once again off the bench as the Ellenwood, Ga., product tied a career-high with 16 points on 7-for-15 shooting. The freshman's night also featured a team and career-best six rebounds for SFA and he has now put in 10 or more points for three straight games. The last time an SFA freshman posted three-straight game of 10 or more points was from Jan. 3-13 when Ty Charles did so.
• Heading into Wednesday night's showdown, SFA ranked as the ninth-best team in the nation in terms of free throw shooting. However, SFA connected on only 13 of its 22 tries from the charity stripe against the Blazers for a percentage of 59.1. That percentage was the lowest by an SFA team since Feb. 15, 2016 when the 'Jacks converted 12 of their 21 opportunities (57.1-percent) in a home win over Incarnate Word.
• By grabbing 16 offensive rebounds - nine more than the Blazers - the 'Jacks were able to finished +11 in second-chance points in the tilt. SFA's 18 second-chance points and its +11 were both season highs and marked the first time since March 11, 2016, that the 'Jacks posted a double-digit advantage in second-chance points.
• Relying heavily on a series of isolation plays and dribble-drives to put points on the board, the 'Jacks' passed out a season-low eight assists in the setback. The last time SFA amassed fewer than 10 assists in a game was in its NCAA Tournament game againat Utah on March 19, 2015, in which it racked up nine. SFA's eight assists was also its lowest total in a game since March 7, 2013, when it finished with an equal number against Sam Houston State.
• For the entire month of December, cutting down turnovers has been one of the 'Jacks' main priorities and that trend continued on Wednesday. Stephen F. Austin totaled a season low 12 turnovers against the Blazers and has succeeded in decresing its number of turnovers in each of its three December games (21 at Arkansas, 19 vs. Centenary, 12 vs. UAB).
• Making his second career start, freshman Samuli Nieminen put in a career-high 10 points and was the only other starter other than TJ Holyfield (12) to finish in double digits in the scoring department. It was Nieminen's first outing of 10 or more points as a collegian and the Helsinki, Finland, product swished his first-ever three-pointer at the college level during the first half.
• Senior Dallas Cameron fouled out of the game after getting whistled for his fifth personal late in the second half. It was only the third time in his career that Cameron fouled out of a game and was the first time it happened since he did so on Jan. 5, 2015, against Southeastern Louisiana.
• UAB got the job done by getting 42 points in the paint and another 18 at the free throw line. Those two locations were where the Blazers amassed 71.2-percent of their point total and UAB's 42 points in the paint were the most by an SFA opponent since Baylor registered 48 on Nov. 13, 2015.
• As a team, SFA hammered down five dunks in the game - a season high. The last time a Lumberjack squad finished with five or more slams in a single game was on Feb. 6, 2016, when SFA finished with an equal number in a home win over Northwestern State.
• Stephen F. Austin has yet to defeat UAB after Wednesday night's loss. The 'Jacks' record against the Blazers stands at 0-3 and pushes SFA's winless stretch against C-USA teams to two games. Denton, Texas, was the site of the 'Jacks' most recent triumph over a C-USA institution. On Dec. 15, 2013, SFA captured an 87-53 win over North Texas.
• UAB's 84 points scored marked the first time SFA gave up 80 or more points at home since Nov. 24, 2003, when Houston Baptist scored 83.
PARTY IN THE C-USA
• Saturday night's battle with the Owls will mark the 'Jacks' 144th game in program history against a current institution from Conference USA.
• In those games, Stephen F. Austin's record stands at 68-75 (.476).
• Here's how SFA's record breaks down against each and every C-USA team the 'Jacks have faced in program history:
• Florida International | 1-1
• Louisiana Tech | 5-5
• Marshall | 1-0
• North Texas | 36-35
• Rice | 11-6
• UAB | 0-3
• UTEP | 1-2
• UTSA | 16-24
• Very few NCAA Division I men's basketball teams have matched or surpassed the 'Jacks' prowess at the free throw line so far in 2016-17.
• Among all NCAA Division I squads, Stephen F. Austin ranks 31st nationally in terms of free throw percentage with a collective mark of 76.4. Before their game against UAB, SFA ranked ninth nationally but a 59.1-percent showing from the charity stripe caused a slide of 22 places for the 'Jacks in the national rankings.
• In all, four 'Jacks are shooting 80-percent or better from the free throw line. TJ Holyfield is tops on that list with a mark of 87.5-percent that's also good for 68th nationally.
• Although the season is only seven games old, the 2016-17 squad of Lumberjacks is on pace to set a new program record for the best free throw percentage in a season. The best free throw percentage a Stephen F. Austin team has put up through the course of a season was 75.8-percent in the 1987-88 campaign.