DALLAS, TX (KTRE) - The SFA lumberjacks aren't letting the big stage intimidate them as they prepare for the 2018 NCAA nation tournament.
The representatives of the Southland Conference took the floor of the American Airlines center in Dallas late Monday afternoon to cheers from their fans.
Tomorrow, the team will take on the 3rd seeded team, Texas Tech. SFA enters the tournament as the 14 seed of the east region. SFA and Texas Tech have not met in seven years.
SFA enters the game leading the nation and forced turnovers.
"SFA is disruption," TJ Holyfield, a junior at SFA, said. "We are going to pressure on you and make you make a mistake. I feel like we play our best basketball on the bigger stages, so we had our ups and downs during our conference, but I feel like we can show everyone how SFA basketball should be played."
This is the first time to the tournament as a head coach for Kyle Keller.
"We recruit a certain style player here," Keller said. "We want a grind it out player. We need guys that are selfless and will help their teammate... I believe we have nine starters on this team. I told them that if they can't play the way we play then they need to ride home with the band or someone else because we won't need them."
SFA led the nation in forced turnovers and have made it work to their benefit.
"Playing against our defense is tough, so you've just got to make shots," senior Ty Charles said. "If you don't make shots, it's going to be pretty hard to beat Stephen F. Austin. "
SFA finds themselves back on the national stage for the fourth time in five years. The team is 2-4 all time in the NCAA tournament. The school hs wins over VCU and West Virginia, both coming when Brad Underwood was the head coach.
"The games definitely put SFA on the map," Holyfield said. "It was already on the map, but I guess people started respecting the school a little bit more. They heard about the school."
Look for a deep rotation to continue for the team. Keller prides himself on the use of his bench.
"I told them today, I said, 'hey, please put the shooting shirt on and cheerlead or go play the trumpet in the band tomorrow, whatever you want to do, but if you can't play this way tomorrow, just be ready to go home with the band or the cheerleaders because you ain't playing tomorrow if you can't play the way we play,'" Keller said.
Tip off will be at 6:27 p.m. Thursday.