SFA teams sweep past Houston Baptist in basketball action

From SFA Athletics

By his own admission, Stephen F. Austin men's basketball senior Ty Charles could perform almost no basketball-related activities while sitting out a total of 16 games throughout this season and the last with a various number of injuries.

One thing Charles was able to work on during those lengthy days of rehab was his jump shot and on Wednesday night - much to the delight of the SFA fans in attendance - the senior showed off the fruits of his labor.

Exploding for a career-high 31 points on the strength of a 7-of-11 showing from three-point range, Charles helped the 'Jacks (18-4, 7-2 Southland) hammer Houston Baptist 102-82 and climb up into a tie for second place in the Southland Conference standings.

For the second time in their last three meetings with the Huskies (5-18, 1-9 Southland), the 'Jacks eclipsed the century mark and this time it came by way of a night in which the hosts drilled 54.4-percent (37-of-68) of their field goals and finished with 24 assists.

The aforementioned crisp ball movement helped SFA unload on Houston Baptist from long range. Between Charles and fellow senior Ivan Canete (17 points), all 12 of the 'Jacks' long-range baskets throughout the tilt were represented. SFA would need all of those points, too, in order to offset a season-high 24 turnovers.

"When you think about it, it's incredible that we were able to score 102 points in a game where we threw the ball away 24 times," remarked SFA head coach Kyle Keller. "By no means were we as sharp as we needed to be tonight, and we have plenty of things to work on in order to get to the level where we need to be."

"I'm happy that we won and happy that we moved the ball well and kept feeding Ty, but we have to take care of the basketball."

Minus Kevon Harris, the 'Jacks turned to their bench early and often and one of the biggest - literally and figuratively - sparks SFA received from their reserves came from junior Jovan Grujic. The 7'0 Serbian collected a game and career-high nine rebounds to go along with four points much to the delight of the SFA faithful in attendance.

Although SFA enjoyed a strong first-half performance from the field (20-of-40, 50-percent), it had to contend with a Houston Baptist squad that was intent on putting an end to a 13-game losing streak in true road games. The Huskies, mainly in the form of Jalon Gates and Ian Dubose, had pumped in an impressive 70.6-percent of their shots with 7:33 remaining in the frame and posted a 36-33 lead despite the best efforts of Charles and Ivan Canete.

Finally, over the final 6:29 of the half, the 'Jacks were finally able to douse the hot-shooting Huskies with a burst of high-pressure defense. During that span, Houston Baptist drilled just a single field goal and was forced to watch an effective SFA offense end the frame on a 12-4 run.

Charles and TJ Holyfield, who notched a total of 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, were the driving forces of the surge, combining to produce 10 of the 'Jacks' 12 points. Once the dust had settled following that run, SFA enjoyed a 51-40 lead as it headed to the locker room at halftime.

At no point through the final 20 minutes of action did SFA's lead sink below 13 points and by using a 13-4 run through the opening 4:50 of the frame the 'Jacks took their first of four 20-point leads. Ending the run with six straight points (four free throws and a fast-break slam) was sophomore Nathan Bain.

Houston Baptist was able to trim the 'Jacks' lead down to 13 by employing a 10-4 run that made matters 68-55 with 10:55 left, but Shannon Bogues quickly ended the Huskies' ideas of a comeback with a fast-break slam. That dunk was followed up by consecutive three-pointers from Canete and Charles that effectively slammed the door on Houston Baptist.

David Caraher - perhaps the Southland Conference Freshman of the Year - submitted an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double in defeat for Houston Baptist. Caraher also got a good deal of help from Ian Dubose and Jalon Gates who finished with 23 and 21 respectively.

For the second-straight game, Charles finished one rebound shy of a double-double and Leon Gilmore III rounded out the primary quartet of SFA scorers by adding 13. Saturday morning, the 'Jacks are scheduled to hit the road for a short journey south to Beaumont, Texas, where they will face off against Lamar. Tip-off inside the Montagne Center is slated for 4:30 p.m. and the game will be televised nationwide on ESPN3 and the ESPN app.

The Stephen F. Austin women's basketball continues to put forth some of its best work in the second half as of late, and did so once again in dominant fashion on Wednesday night. Exploding for 28 third quarter points, the Ladyjacks (17-3, 9-0 SLC) rolled to a 76-54 win on the road at Houston Baptist and won its 11th straight game.
 
A change of scenery into HBU's compact arena had little effect on the Ladyjacks offense to start the contest, as the Ladyjacks got off to a hot start in the first quarter and led from wire-to-wire in Sharp Gymnasium to earn the victory. After taking a seven-point lead into halftime, the Ladyjacks poured in 28 points in the third quarter alone to blow open the contest.
 
"It was good to be back on the road and get out of there with a good win," said SFA head coach Mark Kellogg. "I really liked our third quarter, I thought we came out with a different energy, got some things going offensively and made a commitment to defend. All in all it was a good learning experience, it's good to get back on the road and remember what its like to win away from the coliseum."
 
Stevi Parker notched her second straight double-double with a 19 points, 14 rebound effort to pace the team. Chanell Hayes had a huge opening quarter for SFA and finished with 14 points, five rebounds and five steals, while Imani Johnson and Lovisa Brunnberg each hit a trio of three-pointers and finished with 11 points apiece. Kennedy Harris filled the stat sheet with seven points, four rebounds, six assists and four steals.
 
The first quarter began as a high-energy affair with plenty of scoring, as both teams got to the opening media timeout converting on 50 percent of attempts from the field. Utilizing high pressure on the defensive end, the Ladyjacks forced several early turnovers by the Huskies and scored eight points off those turnovers to build a 22-13 advantage after the first quarter of play.
 
The same formula that led the 'Jacks to success in the opening stanza were lacking in the early going of the second quarter, as the Huskies opened the second quarter on an 8-0 run to pull with one point at 22-21. SFA's first basket did not come until the 5:58 mark, when Imani Johnson hit her third trey of the contest to stem the tide. Even then, a pair of free throws by Houston Baptist with 3:48 left to play trimmed the lead to one yet again at 26-25. Regaining control of the momentum, the Ladyjacks then strung together a combination of foul shots and layups to go on an 8-0 run and build the lead out to 34-25. Houston Baptist got the last points of the quarter on a jumper by leading scorer Amanda Johnson, but SFA got the last laugh by taking a 34-27 lead into the break.
 
After the third quarter opened with the two teams trading quick turnovers, Taylor Jackson got the Ladyjacks back on track with a three-pointer, which the 'Jacks followed in quick succession with a pair of free throws by Johnson and a jumper by Parker. A steal and layup by Harris pushed the run to 8-0 to start the third before Houston Baptist's Amanda Johnson halted it with a jumper. Johnson would add in four mote points in the next couple minutes before SFA went on another run, tis time an 11-0 surge highlighted by six points from Parker and capped by her trey with 3:02 remaining in the quarter. The Ladyjacks closed out the quarter with a trifecta and layup from Brunnberg, and would carry a 62-40 edge heading intot he final quarter of play. By the time all was said and done, SFA had tallied 15 points off Husky turnovers in the quarter en route to a 28-13 edge.
 
Back-to-back trifectas from Brunnberg to open the fourth quarter torched the reeling Huskies, and put the 'Jacks firmly in the drivers seat. After Brunnberg's second trey extended the lead to a game-high 26, the 'Jacks let their foot off the gas a bit, and the Huskies used a 7-0 run to get the margin to 68-49, the first time it had been under 20 points since the 1:08 mark of the third quarter. The teams would trade baskets for the final four minutes of the contest, ending the fourth quarter at an equal 14 points apiece.
 
"We just have a lot of different ways to score the ball," continued Kellogg. "You just kind of take what the game gives you, and tonight they went big, and those kids weren't looking to get out and defend on the perimeter as much, and so Imani was able to get off to a good start, and that was big for her. Chanell came up big for us tonight on both sides of the ball, Lovisa got going outside which was great for her, and Kennedy has another six assists tonight and is playing real well. And not to discount Stevi, you just get used to her doing it night in and night out, but she had a great game tonight as a senior and a leader and we needed that tonight."
 
The difference maker in the contest for SFA seemed to be two-fold, both their defensive press, which sped up the Huskies to the tune of 26 turnovers, and strong  shot defense which held the Huskies to 39.6 percent (21-53) from the field and just 9.1 percent (1-11) from beyond the arc.  SFA created 37 points off the HBU turnovers to create a dominant edge in that category, and also led in bench scoring (17-6) and three pointers made (10-1). SFA finished 25-61 (41 percent) from the field and 10-27 (31 percent) from deep, while converting 16-23 (69.6 percent) of attempts at the charity stripe.
 
Next up for SFA is a pivotal road matchup in Beaumont on Saturday against second-place Lamar, which fended off a pesky Abilene Christian squad by a 77-71 margin.  SFA remains the lone unbeaten team in the Southland Conference, while Lamar (9-1 SLC) is in a close second.