SFA returns home to host Houston Baptist in Southland Conference opener

Updated: Dec. 30, 2016 at 10:15 PM CST
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SFA Athletics

NACOGDOCHES, TX (Press Release)

• On the final day of 2016, the Stephen F. Austin men's basketball team is set to begin its defense of four-straight Southland Conference regular season crowns when the 'Jacks open up league play by hosting Houston Baptist at 4:00 p.m. inside William R. Johnson Coliseum. The 'Jacks' bid for their 26th-straight Southland Conference regualar season win can be seen nationwide on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app with Rob Meyers and Tyler DePascal providing play-by-play and analysis. Their call of the game will also be broadcast on Q107.7 FM in Nacogdoches, online at or on the TuneIn app. 
• Both of the two longest Southland Conference winning streaks in the history of the 13-team league belong to Stephen F. Austin. From Feb. 20, 2013 until Feb. 14, 2015 the 'Jacks win 32 straight league games - the longest in-league winning streak in conference history. Beginning on Feb. 16, 2015 until the present day, SFA has won 25 SLC tilts in a row - the second-longest winning streak in the history of the league.
• Through its 28 seasons of affiliation with the Southland Conference, Stephen F. Austin has posted a 16-12 record in league openers and has won its last five conference openers. Additionally, the 'Jacks have won each of their last nine home conference openers.
• Kyle Keller will try and become the ninth head coach in SFA's history to win his first conference game as head coach. Of the 'Jacks' 12 head coaches in program history, only Ned Fowler (1990-96), Mike Martin (1988-90) and Stan McKewen (1942-48) did not win their conference debuts.

• Stephen F. Austin's 12th meeting with a current Pac-12 institution came in the fifth-place game of the 2016 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic as the 'Jacks dropped a 74-66 decision to Utah in the second meeting between the two programs. With the loss, the 'Jacks fell to 0-2 all-time against the Utes with both of those games being played on a neutral court.
• For the first time since the 'Jacks' 2016-17 season opener at No. 2-ranked Kentucky, junior Ty Charles checked in and played 32 minutes. Sidelined for the next 10 games with a broken hand following their lid-lifter in the Bluegrass State, Charles came off the bench to score 11 points and grab a team-best four rebounds.
• The 'Jacks' tilt against Utah marked SFA's first-ever Christmas Day game and was also the first time since their 2015 NCAA Tournament meeting with the Utes that TJ Holyfield did not play. The sophomore was relegated to the bench after suffering a mild ankle sprain, ending his streak of 45-straight starts to begin his collegiate basketball career.
• Utah threw the game's first punch, starting things off with a 9-0 run that stunned the 'Jacks through the opening 1:49. Stephen F. Austin never held the lead in the game and went to a 2-3 zone defense to try and slow the Utes down the rest of the way.
• Utah entered the Christmas Day showdown armed with the eighth-best rebounding average among all NCAA Division I basketball teams at 43.9 per game. By the time the final horn sounded, the Utes had grabbed only 20 - a season low and 23.9 fewer than their average thanks to the 'Jacks' defensive effort.  Those 20 rebounds were the fewest by the Utes in a game since Feb. 9, 2013, when they amassed just 19 in a 73-64 loss at Oregon. 
• For the second time in as many games, freshman Chase Winchester provided a substantial spark off of the bench for Stephen F. Austin. The walk-on canned a career-best two three-pointers for the 'Jacks and hit a pair of free throws with 5:12 remaining that pulled SFA within four points (55-51) of the Utes.
• As a team, the 'Jacks attempted just 10 three-pointers in the non-conference loss - their fewest number of long range tries in a single game this season. For the game, however, the 'Jacks hit five of their 10 tries, helping them finish with a 50-percent showing from beyond the arc. That percentage is the highest in a single game for SFA in the 2016-17 campaign.
• Ten of the 11 'Jacks who took part in the non-conference engagement put in points and Leon Gilmore III scored a team-best 13 to go along with his team-high four rebounds.
• Stephen F. Austin used its eighth different starting lineup of the 2016-17 season in their tilt with the Utes. Sophomore Jovan Grujic received his second career promotion to the starting lineup while senior Dallas Cameron and junior Ivan Canete remaing the only two 'Jacks who have started each of the team's 12 games this season.
• Although their 24 rebounds represented a season-low, the 'Jacks were successful in out-rebounding the Utes by four, marking the fifth consecutive game in which Stephen F. Austin has totaled more rebounds than its opponent. The 'Jacks have grabbed more rebounds than their foes in nine of the 12 games they have play this season.
• Eight of Stephen F. Austin's 12 opponents in 2016-17 have registered more turnovers than assists when they have taken on the 'Jacks. Utah threw the ball away 18 times, finishing with one more turnover than its 17 assists.
• For the first time since the 2011-12 season, Stephen F. Austin will not post a December record of .500 or above. At best, the 'Jacks will finish 4-5 in the final month of the calendar year.
• Utah's David Collette finished with a game-high 18 points on 8-for-8 shooting from the field. That makes Collette the third opposing player in the 2016-17 season that has shot 100-percent from the field on five or more attempts against Stephen F. Austin.
• Below is the full breakdown of where Stephen F. Austin's points came from in their setback to the Utes:
Two-pointers | 48.5% (32-66)
Three-pointers | 22.7% (15-66)
Free throws | 28.8% (19-66)
Points in the paint | 33.3% (22-66)
Points off turnovers | 33.3% (22-66)
Second chance points | 13.6% (9-66)
Starters points | 37.9% (25-66)
Bench points | 62.1% (41-66)

• Saturday afternoon marks the beginning of Southland Conference play for Stephen F. Austin, and since the 2013-14 season, no team across the NCAA Division I men's college basketball landscape has been more dominant against foes from its own league.
• In that time, the 'Jacks have won 98.1-percent of their conference games, going 53-1 for the nation's best in-conference winning percentage in that time span.
• Rounding out the top three conference-only records in college basketball since the 2013-14 season began are Wichita State (52-3, .944 win percentage) out of the Missouri Valley Conference and defending NCAA Division I men's basketball champion Villanova (49-6, .889 win percentage) from the BIG EAST.
• No team in the land has laid claim to more in-conference wins since the 'Jacks have since 2013-14.

• Noted basketball statistics guru Ken Pomeroy has once again comprised a chart that ranks all 351 NCAA Division I men's basketball teams across a multitude of unique categories.
• Stephen F. Austin is in the upper echelon of the nation's teams in number of these categories, including the following:
• Opponent turnover percentage (% of possessions in which opponents turn the ball over) | 22.3% | 33rd nationally.
• Free throw rate (a team's ability to get to the free throw line that divides free throw attempts by field goal attempts) | 46.8% | 12th nationally.
• Strength of schedule | +3.14 | 84th nationally
• Bench minutes | 39.1% | 37th nationally

• Through his young career, sophomore TJ Holyfield has turned into one of the 'Jacks' best low-post defenders in the history of the program.
• The Albuquerque, N.M., product has 67 blocked shots to his credit so far in his collegiate basketball career, putting him in fifth-place all-time in the 'Jacks record book. With three more swats, he would become only the fifth player in the history of the program to notch 70 or more blocked shots in a career.
• Holyfield's 17 blocked shots this season lead the team and are the fourth-most among all Southland Conference players. The sophomore is averaging 1.55 rejections per game, good for fourth in the 13-team league and 101st nationally.

• With the departure of five seniors and almost 70-percent of its scoring from last season, the 'Jacks were already searching for answers coming into the 2016-17 campaign, but their patience was put to the test even further with a multitude of early-season hurdles to overcome.
• In all, the 'Jacks have seen five players miss a combined 33 games this season due to injury. Among that group, junior Ty Charles missed 10 with a fracture in his hand, sophomore Nathan Bain will be out for the rest of the season after undergoing back surgery, junior Leon Gilmore III was forced to he sidelines for one game with a bad back and sophomore TJ Holyfield sat against Utah on Dec. 25 after turning his ankle in practice.
• In all, the 'Jacks have had exactly three full practices in which each and every member of their 14-man roster has participated fully and for the entire allotment of time.
• No team in the Southland Conference returned a fewer percentage of their points from the 2015-16 campaign than Stephen F. Austin. SFA retained only 30.2-percent of its scoring from the previous season, making it one of only two teams from around the league that returned less than 40-percent of its offensive firepower from the previous season.
• At this point in the season, nearly two-thirds (65.9-percent) of the 'Jacks' points (555 of 842) are coming from a group of eight newcomers.

• In each of their three meetings with the Huskies in the 2015-16 campaign, the 'Jacks emerged as the victors, winning by an average of 23.3 points per game to stretch their winning streak against Houston Baptist to ten games.
• The most recent meeting between the two squads took place in Katy, Texas - the first-ever neutral site encounter between the combatants - and SFA proceeded put up triple digits against Houston Baptist in a 104-68 win of the semifinals of the Southland Conference Tournament.
• Only three games out of the 19 SFA and HBU have played against one another have been decided by single digits, including a 72-66 SFA win in Houston last Feb. 6.

• For the second time in as many seasons, the Huskies emerged as the victors in their Southland Conference opener, downing preseason league favorite Sam Houston State 79-65 in Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum on Thursday night. Trailing by four at the break, Houston Baptist outscored the hosts 53-35 in the final 20 minutes to secure the win. The Huskies received a game-high 22 points from Colter Lasher and a 16-point, 10-rebound showing from Reveal Chukwujekwu.
• Houston Baptist leads the way in the Southland Conference in terms of rebounding margin with a figure of +4.1. That number is the 91st-best in the nation and the Huskies average 38 boards per game - the second-best per-game number in the 13-team league.
• Houston Baptist's victory at Sam Houston State on Thursday night snapped a streak of 11 straight road losses for the Huskies. Prior to their victory against the Bearkats, their most recent road win came 341 days prior in a 92-79 triumph at Lamar on Jan. 23, 2016.
• The only Southland Conference team that has fewer total turnovers than Houston Baptist's 152 is McNeese. The Huskies' turnover total is the 65th-smallest among all 351 NCAA Division I men's basketball teams.
• Now in his 26th season at the helm of Houston Baptist, head coach Ron Cottrell will try and do something on Saturday that has never done: defeat Stephen F. Austin. Cottrell is 0-10 in his head coaching career against the Lumberjacks and just one of those games has been decided by single digits.

• Stephen F. Austin takes off on a southbound journey to Lake Charles, La., for its first Southland Conference road test of 2017 when they 'Jacks face off against McNeese at 7:30 p.m. on Monday night.