Texas-San Antonio (19-12) vs. Stephen F. Austin (23-7)
Sunday, March 15th, 1:03 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By John Agovino, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Merrell Center (5, 600) -- Katy, Texas. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Texas-San Antonio 11-3, Stephen F. Austin 13-0. Away Record: Texas-San Antonio 6-9, Stephen F. Austin 6-7. Neutral Record: Texas- San Antonio 2-0, Stephen F. Austin 4-0. Conference Record: Texas-San Antonio 8-8, Stephen F. Austin 13-3. Series Record: Texas-San Antonio leads, 22-13.
GAME NOTES: Stephen F. Austin is one step away from punching its ticket to the Big Dance, but first the top-seeded Lumberjacks will have to get past the sixth-seeded Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners in the title matchup of the Southland Conference Tournament at the Merrell Center. This will be a rematch of the 2004 Southland title game, which was won by the Roadrunners, 74-70.
This year the Roadrunners finished just 8-8 in league play, earning the sixth- seed for the tournament. UTSA has played the role of spoiler throughout this event, opening the tournament with an 83-74 victory over third-seed Sam Houston State. The Roadrunners continued their upset march with a thrilling, 57-55 decision over the second seed, Nicholls State.
As for the regular-season champion Lumberjacks, they are still in search of their first Southland tournament title. This could be the best chance for SFA to achieve that goal, as the team finished with 23 victories, and a 13-3 league mark. The Lumberjacks opened this tournament with a 67-56 decision over Southeastern Louisiana, and followed that win with a tough 63-60 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
The Roadrunners lead the all-time series with SFA by a 22-13 margin. However, the Lumberjacks have won the last four meetings, including a 66-62 decision over UTSA in their regular-season finale.
The Roadrunners have run through the opposition with their play offensively, as the team is averaging an impressive 75.7 ppg, behind 42.3 percent shooting. Omar Johnson has been the top scoring option, as the guard is posting 12.8 ppg, to go along with a team-best 127 assists. Dominating play in the paint for UTSA has been Travis Gabbidon, who is netting 12.7 ppg, to go along with a team-best 6.4 rpg. Devin Gibson is known more for his defensive play (team- best 79 steals), but the guard has also contributed at the offensive end of the floor, posting 11.9 ppg. Surprisingly, the last time UTSA was on the court the team only scored 57 points, but it was enough for the Roadrunners to slip past Nicholls State and into the title game. The Roadrunners only shot 38.8 percent from the floor, but made 9-of-20 attempts from long range, and 10- of-11 shots from the foul line. Joey Shank was the go-to player in the win, as the guard tallied 19 points. As for Johnson, he finished with 11 points to go along with six rebounds and six assists.
As for the Lumberjacks, they have relied more on a defensive approach to get the job done. Stephen F. Austin has done a tremendous job defensively, holding teams to just 56.0 ppg, on a pathetic 37.2 percent shooting effort, and an even worse 27.2 percent clip from behind the arc. The Lumberjacks continued their strong play in the semifinals against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, holding their opponent to just 60 points on a 38.8 percent shooting display. Leading the way at the other end of the floor was Matt Kingsley, who erupted for 26 points and eight rebounds. Josh Alexander was the only other player in double figures, netting 14 points. Kingsley and Alexander have been the top two players throughout the season for SFA, as Kingsley is posting 16.1 ppg and 7.8 rpg, while Alexander is averaging 14.5 ppg, despite shooting 39.6 percent from the floor.
This is your prototypical matchup between a high-octane offense and a stingy defense. Usually in championship battles the defensive teams reign supreme, and that trend should ring true in this matchup. Look for the Roadrunners to keep it close, but eventually the Lumberjacks will chop down their final obstacle standing in the way of their ticket to the Big Dance.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Stephen F. Austin 68, Texas-San Antonio 64
03/15 10:27:25 ET