NACOGDOCHES, Texas (Press Release)- With only eight minutes of action under his belt through the first half of Stephen F. Austin's Southland Conference bout against Incarnate Word, junior guard Ty Charles had picked up three fouls and had gone 0-for-2 from the field, making him a relative non-factor.
So, the product of Kennedale, Texas decided to make up for any offensive productivity he had lost once the second half commenced.
Each and every one of Charles' team-high 21 points came in the final 20 minutes of action and the ‘Jacks withstood a 35-point scoring explosion from Incarnate Word’s Jalin Hart to claim an 87-79 triumph over the Cardinals Thursday night inside William R. Johnson Coliseum.
Defined this season partly by how much they turn the ball over, the ‘Jacks buckled down in that department, committing a season-low six turnovers in the win. Sophomore TJ Holyfield submitted his fifth double-double effort of the season, putting in 13 points and corralling a game and career-high 14 rebounds.
Moving into a tie for second place in the Southland Conference standings with Sam Houston State, who dropped an overtime decision at Lamar, the ‘Jacks attempted a season-high 42 free throws and erased a two-point deficit at the half by putting in 60 points through the final 20 minutes of action. Incarnate Word, however, poured in 50 points of its own through the second half to make the final score one of the single-digit variety.
“After watching that first half, I didn’t think that was our team out there,” said head coach Kyle Keller. “Thank God we were at home, because without our crowd we would have been down more, but once the second half started, it was welcome back Ty.
“We get all of our personality and toughness from Ty, and the one thing we did do well was take care of the basketball. Other than that, I don’t think there were many good points. Our defense has to get better. We gave up 50 points in the second half and Hart got hot which allowed UIW to get back into it.”
Conventional offense for both teams was in short supply through the opening 20 minutes of action. Through an erratic first half that featured eight ties and an equal number of lead changes, the Southland Conference combatants put forth a combined 3-for-18 shooting effort from three-point range.
Tied with the Cardinals at eight points apiece, the ‘Jacks used some fine play off the bench from freshman Kevon Harris to gain their only semblance of control in the opening frame. Hailing from Ellenwood, Ga., Harris scored or assisted on eight-straight points for SFA, helping the ‘Jacks claim a slim 16-15 lead at the midway point of the half.
The Cardinals’ largest lead of the frame was 20-17, occurring after Hart sank a driving fast-break layup with 5:41 left in the half, but Holyfield chose that juncture in the game to put his team back in control.
Five of the next six points scored by SFA came from the hand of the sophomore forward out of Albuquerque, N.M., and it was his mid-range jumper on the baseline than ended SFA’s stretch of 5:18 without a field goal and knotted the score at 20.
Isaiah Traylor connected on a jumper with 1:20 remaining in the frame, pushing SFA’s lead to 27-23. From there, however, the top three-point shooting team by percentage in the Southland Conference finally located their misplaced touch from beyond the arc in the final 61 seconds of the frame.
Tyler Singleton and Jorden Kite each canned a triple in that span, erasing the ‘Jacks’ four-point edge and sending the home team into the halftime break at a 29-27 disadvantage. Those three-pointers represented a momentary surge of offense as the two teams combined to take 28 free throws in the second half and went only 18-for-47 (38.2-percent) from the field.
UIW kicked off the final frame by scoring six of the first eight points and owned a 35-29 lead before Charles’ play turned the tide for the ‘Jacks. Senior Dallas Cameron hit the first of three three-pointers for the ‘Jacks with 16:23 left in the frame and SFA never trailed again.
Staked to a 36-35 lead, the ‘Jacks saw Charles scored 13 of their next 16 points and it was the junior’s lone three-pointer that pushed SFA’s advantage to 52-41 with 12:25 left.
In order to keep pace with the ‘Jacks - and Charles - the Cardinals employed the three-pointer. UIW splashed nine of its 13 tries from that distance in the deciding frame, eventually cutting SFA’s once-comfortable 17-point second half lead all the way down to seven, 80-73, thanks to Hart’s fast-break triple with 56 seconds to go.
From there, SFA turned to Cameron and Harris to preserve its 44th-straight Southland Conference home victory. The pair did so at the free throw line, hitting seven of their eight total tries in the waning seconds to put UIW on ice.
Cameron finished with 14 points and set new career-highs for both free throws made (11) and free throws attempted (14).
UIW shot 53.1-percent (26-for-49) from the field and got double-digit scoring outings from both Simi Socks (18) and Tyler Singleton (12) in addition to Hart's monstrous outing. Leon Gilmore III started the 'Jacks' scoring with a fast-break dunk and finished with 12 points, four rebounds and a blocked shot in the win.
As a team, the 'Jacks hit exactly 50-percent (29-for-58) of their field goals for the second time in as many games.
At no point over the next week will the ‘Jacks have to depart the city of Nacogdoches, but when they do return to action their next foe will present an exceptionally difficult challenge. On Thursday, Feb. 16 at 8:00 p.m., SFA welcome Lamar - the fourth-place team in the Southland Conference standings - to William R. Johnson Coliseum. The Cardinals currently sit just a half-game behind the ‘Jacks on the league ladder.