NACOGDOCHES, Texas (Press Release)- Needing anything to wash away the bitter taste of back-to-back Southland Conference losses, the Stephen F. Austin men's basketball team returned to William R. Johnson Coliseum and put on a performance that conjured up memories of each the 39 conference wins that preceded the one the team obtained on Wednesday night.
Ivan Canete sprung for 21 of his game-high 24 points in the second half - amassing eight field goals in the frame compared to just seven by the Islanders as a team - to help the ‘Jacks secure their 40th-straight Southland Conference home victory in runaway fashion with a 79-46 decision over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
The win for the ‘Jacks ended a two-game slide, upped their record to 7-9 and leveled their Southland Conference mark at 2-2. Along the way, the ‘Jacks held the Islanders to their lowest point total of the 2016-17 season and claimed a 51-29 (+22) edge in rebounding.
“I am very proud of this team for bouncing back after two not-so-great games on the road,” said SFA head coach Kyle Keller. “Our great play had nothing to do about making shots. More than that it was our defensive effort and the fact that we took care of the ball against a team that came in getting the seventh-most steals per game in the nation.”
One of the many frustrations for the ‘Jacks this season has been their propensity to turn the ball over. Against the Islanders, SFA passed out 17 assists to 15 turnovers - the team’s first positive assist-to-turnover ration in a game this season.
Defensively, the ‘Jacks made life miserable for the Islanders, allowing the visitors to shoot only 33.3-percent (17-for-51) from the field while committing 16 turnovers against only four assists. Junior Isaiah Traylor added 13 for the ‘Jacks while TJ Holyfield put in 11 on 5-of-6 shooting from the field.
Leon Gilmore III banked a large batch of style points early on as the junior started the game by taking to the sky for a fast-break jam. That rim-rocker was the first stage of a 6-0 run by the home team to begin the Southland Conference encounter and appeared to inspire the ‘Jacks on the defensive end of the floor.
Through the first 5:52 of the opening frame, SFA forced six of the Islanders’ eight first-half turnovers and on the offensive end the ‘Jacks relied on a heavy serving of Holyfield down low to extend their lead.
Wanting to forget about his nine-point, five-foul performance at Abilene Christian last Saturday afternoon, Holyfield scored six-straight points for the home team, pushing its lead from two to eight (16-8) with 10:36 remaining in the opening frame.
Prior to the sophomore’s outburst, junior Josh Huntley splashed a mid-range jumper and put in the last of his four first-half points with a hook shot from deep in the painted area.
With their inside game firing on all cylinders, the ‘Jacks ventured downtown to extend their advantage. Isaiah Traylor connected on two of his three long-range hits in the first half and added a pair of free throws to help SFA push its edge to 29-16 with 3:56 left in the frame before Kareem South dragged the Islanders back into it.
The freshman guard pumped in seven of the 10 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi points during a 10-0 run by the Islanders that spanned 3:10. Clinging to a 29-26 lead with 46 seconds to go in the first frame, the ‘Jacks saw freshman Aaron Augustin end the Islanders’ scoring spree with a mid-range jumper that gave the home team a 31-26 cushion at the break.
Although Joseph Kilgore gave the Islanders a brief flicker of life in the final frame by starting things with a one-handed slam, Canete extinguished that flame quickly. The junior scored 10 points in a row for the ‘Jacks as part of a 12-3 run by the home team to push its lead to 43-31 with 16:44 left.
The ‘Jacks’ lead never dipped below 10 points again and grew to as large as 34 points (78-44) after freshman Kevon Harris drilled his lone three-pointer of the night with 2:59 to go.
The point guard tandem of Dallas Cameron and Augustin combined to produce eight of the ‘Jacks’ 17 assists without committing a single turnover. Cameron and junior Ty Charles tied for game-high honors in assists, accumulating five each.
On Saturday night at 6:00 p.m., the ‘Jacks make a bid for back-to-back Southland Conference wins for the first time in 2016-17 when they play host to upstart Nicholls inside William R. Johnson Coliseum.