One thing is for certain, the Lumberjacks know how to make a game exciting. Perhaps, it is even honest to refer to them as the Cardiac Jacks.
Yesterday in Greenville, SC was no different. Just a few days off of a last second OT winner, Stephen F. Austin found themselves in another heart stopping finish.
The Lumberjacks arrived in the Palmetto State at 6-4, riding on a high from AJ Cajuste’s last second layup in a 80-79 win over Louisiana Tech on Wednesday.
And at the Greenville Winter Invitational, the Cardiac Jacks almost did the unthinkable once again.
Facing the preseason Southern Conference favorite, the Furman Paladins, the Cardiac Jacks got punched right in the face from the opening tip.
It appeared that the travel and ridiculous list of injuries may have caught up to SFA. They looked slow, missed defensive assignments, and just didn’t have the energy you would normally expect.
So much in fact that Kyle Keller used every available timeout in the first half to try coach up his players.
The Paladins deserve a lot of credit for dictating the pace in the first half. It has been a focus that Stephen F. Austin prides themselves on. Add in just missing a lot of good looks, and the men from Nacogdoches went into the locker room trailing 44-22.
One thing we’ve seen from the SFA program over the years, is the toughness and belief they are never out of a game.
SFA was once again without Jaylin Jackson-Posey, Robbie Armbrester, and Jalil Beaubrun. Roti Ware, still recovering from last year’s knee injury (plus other injuries picked up this year) couldn’t go more than seven minutes. Derrick Tezeno returned to the squad but isn’t 100%. And then you have DayDay Hall playing with a torn labrum.
So, to say the second half we got was pretty special may be a bit of an understatement.
Ben VanderWal for the Paladins started the second half with a dunk.
But, AJ Cajuste’s hit a 3-pointer to spark an 18-0 SFA run. And fans at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena had a ballgame.
Latrell Jossell tied the game at 60 with 7:49 left to play. The next few minutes gave SFA every possible chance to take control of the game. A stretch that they’ll go back and watch and wish they could do over.
Jossell, having not scored in the first half, flipped a switch and finished the game with 21 points. The Kansas transfer knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers giving SFA a 66-64 lead with 2:25 remaining.
— SFA Men’s Basketball (@SFA_MBB) December 17, 2022
The next few minutes were absolutely wild.
After Cajuste made it 69-66, Furman appeared to be in trouble as Nana Antwi-Boasiako knocked a Paladin pass into the backcourt. With just seven seconds left on the shot clock, Nigel Hawkins dove for the loose ball and mistakenly fouls Mike Bothwell 85 feet from the basket. Bothwell hit both free throws to bring Furman within one with 1:10 remaining.
On the following possession, Hawkins appeared to have redeemed himself. Hawkins knocked down a banked-in 3-pointer as the shot clock buzzer sounded. After review, the shot didn’t count and the Paladins had life.
Mike Bothwell, as he did all day, knocked down a jumper to give Furman a 70-69 lead. On the other end, the Paladins fell on a loose ball and things got interesting.
As the ball was seemingly being tied up, the official closest to the play appeared to call a foul. Meanwhile, Jalen Slawson was calling a timeout. A timeout that Furman didn’t have, resulting in a technical.
Now we have some controversy.
The officiating crew awarded SFA with a Class B technical. And a single free throw to tie the game at 70. However, according to the NCAA rule book (and a NCAA official that I confirmed with), the Lumberjacks should have received TWO free throws that could have given them the lead.
According to the NCAA rules, SFA should have been rewarded two FTs at the end of todays game instead of one for the Furman excessive timeout technical. Confirmed with an NCAA official. pic.twitter.com/qNfgFYz3Od
— Matt Adkins ? (@CBB_RunThePoint) December 18, 2022
After Latrell Jossell hit the technical free throw to tie the game, Bothwell made the play of the game.
Bothwell dribbled to his left and along the baseline knocked down the 10-foot jumper to give Furman a huge 72-70 win.
But, does Furman run the same play for Bothwell and take the same shot if they aren’t tied?
Taking a game-winning shot knowing you have to score, versus taking a game winning shot knowing overtime is the worst possible outcome…is completely different.
This wasn’t the only odd situation that occurred in favor of the “home team” Paladins. There was a questionable rim hanging technical, which was a no-call when Furman had a similar situation. There was also a potential goal tend that wasn’t reviewed. And on the same play a non-taunting technical from Slawson that almost always gets called.
According to Kyle Keller during his post game interview, the arena PA announcer reportedly made comments over the system before every SFA free throw…but never before the Paladins took theirs.
Either way, the Cardiac Jacks put themselves in too deep of a hole to win that game. An incredible and gutsy performance to not only get back in the game. Most coaches will say there are no moral victories, Especially considering how impactful wins and losses are for the WAC resume seeding system.
But, erasing a 22-point deficit and having a chance to win a mostly road ball game is a huge positive for SFA to build on. When SFA is able to get more of their players healthy, the potential for a great season finish is definitely in sight.
Stephen F. Austin returns home on Dec. 19 for a non-D1 matchup against North American University. SFA then welcomes Jackson State to Nacogdoches on December 22 to finish out non-conference play..