From SFA Athletics
For the better part of 40 minutes, it appeared as though the Stephen F. Austin men's basketball team was primed to spring yet another mid-March upset, trash countless brackets and send the nation scrambling to learn how to spell - and correctly pronounce - Nacogdoches.
Instead, the 'Jacks ran out of bullets.
Held without a field goal for the final 5:22 of the game, SFA watched third-seeded and 14th-ranked Texas Tech end the game on a 15-3 run that pushed the Red Raiders into the second round via a 70-60 tally Thursday night in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament at American Airlines Center.
Owning a 30-27 lead at the half, the 'Jacks upped their edge to nine through the early stages of the second half but Texas Tech's Keenan Evans provided the higher seed with an x-factor that SFA simply had no answer for. The senior posted 19 of the Red Raiders' 43 markers in the second half - including eight of the final 15 - to finish with a game-high 23.
"I wish we could have ended the game at halftime, obviously, but the game is 40 minutes," said SFA head coach Kyle Keller following the setback. "I give Texas Tech a tremendous amount of credit. Their coach Chris Beard, his team embodies his spirit and toughness. And they imposed their will obviously the last 10 minutes or so of the game, and my guys tried. They always try, but we just didn't have enough tonight. We just -- it wasn't our night."
Ivan Canete put in a team-high 17 to go along with three rebounds and a game-best four steals for SFA while Shannon Bogues chipped in 14 off the bench. Kevon Harris finished with 12 to go along with his game-high eight rebounds while TJ Holyfield scored 10 before fouling out late in the second half.
A no-holds-barred defensive slugfest defined the opening frame as two of the land's finest scoring prevention units duked it out. It wasn't until Bogues hammered down a powerful two-handed slam nearly two minutes into things that points were on the board for either side.
Bogues' throwdown represent the first part of an 8-2 run by the 'Jacks to start the game in which Canete put in four off of two Texas Tech turnovers. SFA maintained its lead until the 8:55 mark of the frame when Zhaire Smith unleashed quite possibly the dunk of the tournament that woke the Red Raiders' fans from their dormancy and handed Texas Tech a 16-15 advantage.
Following that dunk, SFA recovered an used an 8-3 run to go up 24-19 with 4:14 left in the half.
Outnumbered by a large margin by the hefty contingent of Red Raider backers who made the journey from Lubbock, SFA's fans let out a mighty cheer after Harris splashed a step-back long ball at the halftime horn. That triple, SFA's second of the game, gave the lower seed a 30-27 edge at the break.
For all the bricks the two squads threw up during the opening 20 minutes of action, fans wouldn't have known it had they been tuning into the final frame. Neither team shot above 38-percent in that half, but that changed in the second.
Canete, Holyfield and Charles each drilled wide-open triples which represented SFA's entire offensive payload on a 9-2 scoring spree to start the half. Charles' long range hit pushed the 'Jacks' lead to 39-31 before Texas Tech started its comeback.
A fast break layup from Evans coupled with two free throw makes by him and another by Zach Smith knotted matters at 53-all with 7:39 left. After the teams swapped buckets, Harris broke that deadlock by drilling a faedaway mid-range jumper with 5:23 left.
Bogues split a pair at the line to put SFA back up 58-57, but Evans' layup with 3:39 remaining put Texas Tech on top the rest of the way.
For the game, SFA shot just 38.3-percent (18-of-47) while the Red Raiders put in 46.3-percent of the shots they attempted. Harris added four steals for SFA who turned Texas Tech over 13 times.
One of the program's winningest players, Charles was one of three Lumberjacks who took part in their final collegiate game. The Kennedale, Texas, product finished with in his final number in an SFA uniform. Other departing seniors included Canete and Leon Gilmore III who added two points, seven rebounds, two blocked shots and a pair of steals in the 'Jacks' Dallas loss.
Charles exits the program as one of just 13 players who put in 1,000 or more points and grabbed 500 or more rebounds in his career.
For SFA, the team's 28 wins represented the fifth-highest single-season total in the history of the program and the squad will retain the services of its top three scorers (Bogues, Harris and Holyfield) heading into the 2018-19 campaign.
Q. Shannon, obviously we saw you go out with an injury briefly in the second half. Can you just talk a little bit about that and how that affected you offensively for the rest of the game?
SHANNON BOGUES: I just started cramping a little bit, and then after that, I couldn't really get back in the groove, but it was just a cramp really.
Q. Ivan, in the first half, you really got them going offensively, making some big shots. Can you just kind of explain, you being a senior and being out there, taking that leadership role and leading them offensively, how you were able to get the momentum going in the first half?
IVAN CANETE: I was trying to find open spots for my guys. Being a senior, I just wanted to go out there and give it all I got and play as hard as I could. If I see someone open, I am going to pass them the ball. A guy like Shannon over here can just score however he wants, so yeah.
Q. Ivan, second half you guys came out and scored three quick threes. What was the feeling at that point as far as the momentum, and then talk a little bit about the last five minutes, kind of what was going on during those five minutes.
IVAN CANETE: Yeah, when we were hitting those threes, I mean, we seen them before this year, I felt like we were about to start pulling away. They looked kind of defeated, but every time we made a run, they just responded and made a run back. That's credit to them. They're a tough team, and then in the last five minutes, we just were having a tough time scoring, and some things just didn't go our way.
Q. The foul trouble the team seemed to be in, not trouble until late in the game, but just a lot of fouls seemed to be accumulating for you guys. Did that affect what you were trying to do offensively through the better part of the second half?
SHANNON BOGUES: You said the foul? I'm sorry.
Q. Just the foul trouble, the foul situation the team was in. Did that affect what you guys wanted to do?
IVAN CANETE: Yeah, I mean, it definitely affected what we do on offense. When you're used to certain guys playing a lot of minutes and being in certain spots and then you don't have them on the court out there when it matters, it's kind of hard. You've got to figure it out on the fly. So it was different. But we just tried to get through it, and that was obviously tough not having those guys out there with us.
Q. Coach Keller, I noticed the disparity in points in the paint, Tech versus SFA was not in your favor. Could you address that?
KYLE KELLER: Well, that's been our strength all season, and obviously we wanted to score points in the paint. They make it really hard the way they play defense to get it in there. I thought we did a good job at times of getting it in there. We weren't very successful at scoring in it. They clog it up on the weak side. And to their credit, they make you throw it out and shoot perimeter shots, and they put bodies in front of you.
You know, they blocked a bunch of -- I don't know how many shots they blocked tonight, but it seemed like every time we went and got to the rim, at least in the second half, they were really challenged. But that's how we've won games this year is scoring points in the paint. And our inability to score points in the paint to me, that and not scoring points off our steals and turnovers tonight is the reason why we didn't win the game.
Q. You had said earlier you wish the game could have ended at halftime. You guys were pretty much dominant through the majority of the game until the last couple of minutes there. Can you talk about the difference in those last few minutes, what you guys did the first 30 some minutes of the game?
KYLE KELLER: Well, Evans, obviously, senior point guard dominated the second half. He made it four points at half and gets 19 the second half. I've got Ty Charles as an assistant coach in his last game over there with me. We guarded him a lot of the night. We had to switch him off because of what you guys just said, some foul trouble. So I needed him on the court because he is our senior leader and dominates a lot of different things for us offensively, makes things run. Even though he didn't score many points tonight, he makes things smooth for us. He started the game guarding. And Evans is a reason why he's all Big 12. There's a reason why he's on a lot of draft picks. He's a heck of a player. I think it's a six-point game maybe, and he goes right through Aaron Augustin. And TJ Hoyfield just splits a ball screen and imposed his will and got through it when the game was on the line. That's what pros do. That's what seniors do. We didn't have that happen for us tonight.
Q. Coach Beard said you guys were one of the best teams in the country, said you definitely weren't a 14 seed --
KYLE KELLER: He's being nice.
Q. Do you guys feel like you really were able -- Texas Tech is a 3 seed. You were really able to play with them and maybe were under seeded?
KYLE KELLER: I don't know. There's 68 teams in the tournament seeding that to me doesn't have anything to do with it. I coached the No. 1 seed in the tournament. We didn't make the Final Four. So to me seeds don't matter.
When the game starts, the game starts. And that's what we try to convince our kids. Our kids didn't -- they got to play against some dudes they knew. Ty knew some guys on their team. And the millenials today, they don't even watch college basketball. A lot of our guys didn't even know who those cats were because they don't watch the game. They're on their phone and doing that kind of stuff. I hate to say it, but as much as you or I or anybody in here watches the games, they don't. Or the NBA. They might watch the slam-dunk contest in February on TNT or whatever, but that's about the extent of it.
Q. Obviously it wasn't the outcome that you wanted, but just looking back on the season, what do you take away from this particular team, and as you do walk away and reflect on it, what stands out to you about this squad?
KYLE KELLER: Well, you know, it's a hard time to really collect my thoughts. I thought we had three great seniors who came together. A lot of tears in the locker room after the game because of how much invested they had in our University. The thing I think that they did was we've been living off everybody else that had been before us, the players and coaches that had come before us.
I think my staff and the current players on our team kind of created our own -- a little bit of our own legacy, and so I'm proud that we're -- I look at a lot of championship trophies and nets in my office that other people have won, and it's great for recruiting, and I love that. But to be honest with you, I'm glad we get to have one of our own in there finally, and I'm glad our guys get to -- were able to see this. This is about probably -- I never have counted, between 30 and 40 NCAA Tournament games I've been a part of, and I'm glad they got to experience that for a lot of these kids.