In what was labeled as the top Mid-Major game of the season to date, Stephen F. Austin and South Dakota State fit the bill. And for at least for 34 minutes, the battle of the Jacks was a good one.
The Jackrabbits traveled to Nacogdoches coming off of a 104-88 loss to a Top 15 Alabama squad, and gave the Lumberjack fans that attended a great show. SFA had no answer for Noah Freidel, who finished the game with 25 points on 10-17 shooting. The end result wasn’t due to lack of effort on the defensive end for the SFA Jacks, who again finished the game with double-digit steals. It was simply a case of the SDSU Jacks ability to move the ball around almost flawlessly, with Freidel and Baylor Scheierman knocking down shot after shot with a hand in their face.
— Matt Adkins ? (@CBB_RunThePoint) November 14, 2021
Once again the Lumberjacks came out of the locker room with more energy and pushed the tempo. David Kachelries knocked down a pair of 3-pointers that capped a 11-4 run. And Calvin Solomon tied the game at 51 with less than 5 minutes gone in the half. Both Jacks continued to trade blows, and SFA eventually took a 65-63 lead with just 8:58 remaining.
Unfortunately, down the stretch SFA could not hit a shot and could not get a stop.
Late Game Struggles
One of the problems that I see thus far in the season for the Lumberjacks, is finishing games strong. And Sunday was no different.
The Jacks managed just eight points in the final 8:58. On the other end South Dakota State didn’t let up and opened up a double digit lead to finish with an impressive 83-71 win. During that stretch SFA missed several free throws, and again struggled to get to the line all night. Getting to the charity stripe is a point of emphasis that head coach Kyle Keller relies on. SFA went cold from the field and missed a ton of opportunities at the rim. The Jacks also turned the ball over five times in a two minute span. If the Jacks can figure out the late-game execution issues, watch out. But until then, no game is a given victory as has been the case in years’ past.
Kensmil Does His Thing
Gavin Kensmil was once again a beast for Stephen F. Austin. He saw a double team all of his 35 minutes of play, and still finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds. However, the Jacks have yet to put a complete game together from their starting five. David Kachelries was hot and cold. Roti Ware struggled on just 3 of 10 shooting. Calvin Solomon was also 2 of 7 and unfortunately missed a lot of good looks in the second half. I don’t expect to see that performance from those three very often.
SFA has a good amount of depth. But this early in the season it appears to be the quality of the depth. Latrell Jossell and DayDay Hall are the primary guys off the bench to add contribution. The timeline for Nigel Hawkins’ return is still up in the air. The senior who led the team in scoring during their scrimmages should provide a huge and much needed lift on both ends of the court.
Next up for the Lumberjacks
SFA gets another tough Mid-Major contest at home with Middle Tennessee State on Friday night (7:00 CST on ESPN+) to start the Cancun Challenge. SFA will then have a matchup with Buffalo and either Saint Louis or Illinois State in Mexico.