SFA basketball wins season opener at Longwood

SFA basketball wins season opener at Longwood

From SFA Athletics

FARMVILLE, Va. - Over two months elapsed before the Stephen F. Austin men's basketball registered its first road victory of the 2016-17 season. Securing road win number one in 2017-18 took considerably less time.

Sophomore Kevon Harris exploded for a 23-point, 12-rebound double-double, fellow second-year man Aaron Augustin dished out eight of SFA's nine assists to go along with eight points and four steals and SFA won its first season opener since the 2014-15 campaign by blasting Longwood 74-61 in Willett Hall on Saturday afternoon.

Harris converted 11 of his 14 tries from the free throw line while junior TJ Holyfield added 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting for the 'Jacks who improved to 4-0 all-time against Longwood and 7-0 all-time against opponent from the state of Virginia.

"I thought Aaron played great and he's our most improved player by far headed into the season," commented SFA head coach Kyle Keller who improved to 1-1 in season openers as the 'Jacks' bench boss.

"It's a great way for him to get started as our point guard, and for Kevon his size on the wing gives him some advantages over other players at his position. When we were struggling, he got the ball, got fouled and showed a lot of will to get to the basket and the line."

Although the committed 21 turnovers, the 'Jacks forced 22 by Longwood and received 25 points off of them. In addition to out-rebounding their adversaries from the Big South Conference 44-29, SFA connected on 44.6-percent (25-for-56) of its field goals compared to a 39.3-percent (22-of-56) night from the field by Longwood.

Warned by Keller about a potential fast start by the Lancers, who were eager to put an end to the longest losing streak in all of NCAA Division I men's basketball as the season began, it was the 'Jacks who clocked Longwood with an early offensive haymaker.

Through the opening 6:20 of the non-conference bout, the 'Jacks drilled Longwood with a 15-3 run with four SFA players pumping in points throughout the surge. Most of the damage during that scoring surge was wrought by Bogues and Holyfield as the pair contributed 11 of those 15 markers.

"The first five minutes of the game were really important because they had been talking about this game around Farmville," continued Keller.

Bogues' six points came on a pair of layups and a two-handed dunk while Holyfield canned a layup for the game's first points and added the first of his two three-pointers.

With the table set for an SFA runaway, the Lancers made sure that would not be the case. The hosts employed an 8-0 run over the next 2:25 to cut SFA's lead to 15-11. Longwood continued to press the issue and, with a layup off the mitts of B.K. Ashe with 5:23 to go in the frame, managed to cut SFA's once double-digit lead all the way down to just one point.

Clinging to a 24-23 edge, the 'Jacks turned to the duo of Harris and Gilmore III to right the ship. With the shots not falling from the field, the pair headed to the free throw stripe and put down stakes there for the rest of the half. Those two accounted for each point of a 16-8 SFA run to close the half and nine of those points came from the foul line.

Smelling blood in the water, the 'Jacks made sure to choke the remaining life out of the Lancers with another big run to begin the final frame. Through the first 6:17 of the half, SFA went on a 14-6 surge to open up a 55-37 edge with 13:42 to go. Augustin dished out three of his assists during the run that saw Bogues and Holyfield pump in five points each.

Concluding his sizzling showing from beyond the arc, Holyfield tied a career-high by lacing his third triple with 7:54 left that pushed the 'Jacks' lead to 20, 66-46. Although Longwood whittled SFA's lead down to 12 with an 8-0 run in the 2:27 following that Holyfield downtown hit, the 'Jacks outscored Longwood 8-5 in the last 4:32 to lock down the win.

I thought we got careless in the second half," finished Keller. "We're up 20 at one point and mature, experienced teams get it to 30. We gave up a three-pointer and then we turn the ball over and give up a basket. We got really relaxed and we didn't finish the game very well, but playing a good 40-minute game is so difficult to do - especially early in the season. We know what we have to work on."

For Longwood, the loss was the program's 17th in a row and extended the longest active losing streak in all of NCAA Division I men's basketball. Isaiah Walton amassed 21 points for the Lancers while Charles Glover added 10 in the loss.

With their first win of 2017-18 under their belts, the 'Jacks return to Nacogdoches for arguably its busiest week of the season. Beginning with a Wednesday night showdown with NCAA Division II adversary St. Edward's at 7:00 p.m., SFA will play its next three games within the walls of William R. Johnson Coliseum. Those three games will take place over a period of four days.