With Texas-Arlington mounting a furious comeback, and another double-digit lead in danger of evaporating in the waning minutes Saturday, Stephen F. Austin center Antuane Miller stepped up.
The senior took a feed from Kyle Jacobs at mid-court, raced to the basket and threw down a dunk that rattled both the rim and the Mavericks, as SFA went on to collect a 65-54 win.
Miller's dunk put the Lumberjacks up by eight with 42 seconds left and squashed a Maverick rally that had cut a 12-point lead to as small as four points just moments before. Senior guard Keith Hardaway got the ball at midcourt on a similar play a few possessions later and put the Lumberjacks back up by double digits when he finished with a fast-break layup and converted the free throw after being fouled on the play. A free throw by senior guard Will Johnson with 12 seconds left set the final score.
By finishing strong, the Lumberjacks avoided a repeat of the late-game collapse they suffered against Sam Houston last week, when the Bearkats erased a 10-point lead in the final five minutes to hand SFA its first Southland Conference loss.
Saturday's win moved the Lumberjacks to 13-6 on the year and 6-1 in Southland Conference play, as SFA retained its grasp on the No. 2 spot in the SLC West Division. Texas-Arlington fell to 6-14 on the year and 2-6 in league action.
Miller's dunk put the capper on a 17-point outing for him the second time in as many games he has led all scorers. He was coming off a season-high 23 points in Thursday's game against Texas State. Sophomore center Matt Kingsley joined Miller in double digits with 12 points, marking the second straight game for the inside duo to finish as SFA's top two scorers.
Kingsley added five rebounds, as did Johnson, who also dished out a team-best four assists. Junior forward Scott Weaver pulled down a career-high nine rebounds including four on offense to lead all players. Hardaway finished with nine points, and sophomore forward Josh Alexander added seven. Junior point guard Gerald Fonzie scored six points on 2-of-4 shooting from 3-point range.
SFA scored the game's first bucket and never trailed. The Lumberjacks shot 45 percent in the first half, including a 5-for-11 showing from 3-point range, to take a 31-17 lead to the locker room. SFA held UTA to 33 percent from the field in the opening period.
The Mavericks improved their shooting to 52 percent in the second half and chipped away at the Lumberjack lead, but were only able to step inside the double digit barrier in the closing minutes. Unfortunately for UTA, that?s when SFA answered the bell. The Lumberjacks outscored the Mavericks, 9-2, in the games final minute. UTA was led by Roger Guignard and Jermaine Griffin, each of whom scored 10 points.
The Lumberjacks will be back in action on Wednesday, Jan. 31, when they host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The game against the SLC-leading Islanders is slated to begin at 7 p.m. from the William R. Johnson Coliseum. The Islanders defeated Texas-San Antonio, 78-63 Saturday.