NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The Stephen F. Austin women's basketball team is off to a hot start in Southland Conference play, being one of just three teams in the Southland without a conference loss. The 'Jacks (11-3 overall) will look to continue that trend and earn a win in New Orleans on Wednesday, as they face the New Orleans Privateers (6-9, 2-2 SLC) in a 7:00 p.m. tip-off. The contest is the fourth straight against a Louisiana-based opponent for the 'Jacks, and the third straight road contest for the team.
Fresh off a 70-62 win at Northwestern State on Saturday that tested the Ladyjacks resolve up till the final whistle, SFA was able to extend its winning streak to five games, the second such win streak for the Ladyjacks this season. After jumping out to a large lead in the contest, the 'Jacks faltered in a four minute span and allowed the Lady Demons to close the gap as time wound down. With field goals at a premium, the 'Jacks were instead lifted to victory by stellar shooting at the foul line, as a perfect 8-8 effort in the final minute of play and a 28-31 (90.3 percent) effort overall proved to be decisive in the win.
"We're getting close to that full 40 minute effort in games," said SFA head coach Mark Kellogg. " We're doing well for that 25-30 minute span per game, but not putting that full 40 minute effort together kind of allowed both teams (Nicholls and Northwestern State) to make runs when we through we had them pretty well taken care of. We're learning how to play with that lead and finish people off."
The win was the third straight to open Southland play for the Ladyjacks, who have the opportunity to improve to .500 on the road with a win on Wednesday. Intent on stopping that from happening will be the Privateers, who are 6-9 on the season and fresh off a comeback victory over McNeese on Saturday. Facing a seven-point halftime deficit, the Privateers sank the Cowgirls with a 23-4 third quarter and protected the lead once they had it to sail to a 77-64 win. That victory came courtesy of a career-high 23 points from Kayla Mundy, while the Southland's leading scorer, Randi Brown, had a pedestrian 17 point night on 6-19 shooting from the field.
In dissecting the Privateers offense, Brown is without question the focal point. Averaging 22.6 points per game, the 5-7 guard is a threat to score every time she touches the ball, and has far and away taken the most shots of any Privateer this season. Limiting her contributions is a tall task, but not impossible, as the 'Jacks were able to hold her to just five points in an 88-61 victory last season at William R. Johnson Coliseum. A native of Houma, Louisiana, Brown is a volume scorer, converting on just 33 percent (105-316) of her attempts from the field and 32 percent (44-137) from beyond the arc. Where Brown excels is attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line, where she has hit 85 of 100 attempts this season.
Besides Brown, the Privateers rely on the efforts on Shania Woods (11.1 ppg) and Kayla Mundy (10.4 ppg) on the offensive end, leading to a team average of 65.7 points per game. Despite suffering some lopsided losses earlier in the season in which they were held to less than 60 points, the Privateers have consistently scored 70 or more points as of late, reaching the mark in seven straight games, UNO will face a tough test in doing so on Wednesday, however, as the Ladyjacks are holding opponents to just 57 points per game, and limiting them to 36 percent shooting from the field.
"They can score at five different positions, they have three in double figures now, so they're going to challenge us on defense," Kellogg said. "Then you have the ability of Randi Brown to take over a game and the confidence she'll have with playing on her home floor. She's a player that can score in a variety of ways, she'll make some contested shots and we're going to have our hands full with her. We did an unbelievably good job on her last season in holding her to five points, but it's really a group effort to keep track of her and not let her get going."
SFA has been able to score efficiently this season, averaging just under 78 points per game and reaching the century mark twice this season. While featuring just two players in double-digit points this season (Chanell Hayes and Stevi Parker), a trio of Ladyjacks are right on the cusp of double-digit scoring, representing the balanced scoring approach the 'Jacks have relied on this season.
Playing at Lakefront Arena, the Privateer's 8,875 seat arena, the Ladyjacks have not had the best fortunes, winning just once in four games there, a 68-36 victory in the 2013-14 season. All told, the Ladyjacks own a slight 4-3 lead in the series between the two teams.
With an upcoming four-game home stand on the horizon following the matchup with the Privateers, the Ladyjacks look to finish off the road trip with a victory and return to Nacogdoches with an unblemished record in Southland play.