SFA Ladyjacks finish season with two road tests before SLC Tournament


In the 2017-18 campaign for the Stephen F. Austin women's basketball team, losses have been rare experiences. Rarer still is the Ladyjacks following one loss with another, something they have done just once this season.
On Wednesday evening, the 'Jacks will get a chance to right the ship and get back into the win column, albeit against a dangerous and hungry team in Abilene Christian. The 'Jacks will face the Wildcats in an important matchup inside Moody Coliseum in Abilene, Texas, where ACU is 12-2 on the season.
Tip-off for the game is set for 7:00 p.m, with a pay-per-view stream on acusports.com being the only way to view the contest for those not in Abilene. SFA fans can hear a radio play-by-play of the game on FM 94.7 KVLL, follow the live stats link listed above or on acusports.com, or follow the Ladyjacks on Twitter (@sfa_wbb) to get real time updates on the game.
Coming off what is undoubtedly its worst loss of the season at home on Saturday against Lamar, SFA (22-5, 14-2 SLC) will look to rebound against an ACU squad (16-11, 9-7 SLC) that has lost four of five and slipped in the conference standings to sixth-place. The contest is also the second game of the season series, in which SFA struck the first blow by fending for Abilene Christian at home, 66-55 on January 16.
In that contest, the Ladyjacks held ACU's triple threat of Dominique Golighty, Sara Williamson and Breanna Wright in check, as the trio combined to score just 20 points on 6-33 shooting. The 'Jacks kept ACU's potent three-point shooting from being a big factor in the contest, as the Wildcats shot just 6-25, well below their season average of 9.3 threes per game at a 34 percent clip. Wright is the team's top scorer at 14.2 points per game, and has shown flashes of lethal potential from beyond the arc this season, as well as dishing out 4.6 assists per game. Golightly, a 5-10 guard, is averaging 13.0 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds this season, while Williamson and forward/center Sierra Allen were two of the more effective players against the 'Jacks in the first meeting of the teams earlier this season.
At the helm for ACU is Julie Goodenough, who has been better than her name suggests for the Wildcats in leading them to a 120-55 record in six seasons. The 23-year coaching veteran knows a thing or two about winning, having amassed a 409-275 (.598) record over that span and has the Wildcats headed to the conference tournament this season, albeit as a yet to be determined seed.
If the 'Jacks intended to flex their offensive potential in the matchup with the Cardinals, then the end result was far from its mark. SFA nearly tied a season-high in turnovers (26) with 24 giveaways in the contest, shot less than 33 percent in both of the opening quarters, and fell into a 10-0 hole before scoring for the first time in the game. Simply put, the game was an outlier, an exception to the rule for what has been SFA's strength throughout the season, its offense. At 69.8 points per game, the 'Jacks are the second-highest scoring offense in the league, and rank second in both total three-point attempts made (212) and percentage from beyond the arc (34.5). Additionally, the Ladyjacks earn trips to the free throw line better than anyone in the Southland, and rank 7th in the nation in makes (457) and 12th in attempts (628) this season.
Leading the way for SFA at 13.0 points per game is Stevi Parker, who provided the 'Jacks lone bright spot of Saturday as she reached the 1000-point plateau for her career. The forward is also leading the Southland with 9.7 rebounds per game, and has 10 double-doubles on the season. In a game against Abilene Christian last season, Parker set career highs in points (31) and rebounds (18) to help the 'Jacks earn a win.
Backing up Parker on the offensive end is the duo of Chanell Hayes and Taylor Jackson, both of whom will look to rebound from low-scoring games on Saturday to return to potency on the offensive end. Both players have contributed substantially to the Ladyjacks ability to shoot the three ball well, with contributions from Imani JohnsonLovisa Brunnberg, Parker and Marissa Banfield also providing SFA with a variety of shooters. Kennedy Harris, SFA's top defender and starter on the wing, has also gained some confidence from outside and turned in multiple games with multiple trifectas. That group effort places SFA close behind Abilene Christian in outside shooting on the season, setting the scene for a potential shootout on Wednesday night.
While SFA and ACU are ranked second and third in the Southland in scoring offense at 69.8 and 68.9 points per game, respectively, SFA has been substantially better on the defensive end, surrendering just under 60 points a game to rank fourth in the league at 59.5 points allowed per game. On the flip side, ACU is ranked second to last in scoring defense, as opponents are burning them for an average of 68.4 points per contest, as the Wildcats allow a Southland-worst 41.6 percent clip from the field and 32 percent from beyond the arc.