ABILENE, Tex. — Every day with college basketball on tap is an exciting one.
Tuesday night provided fans with some exciting games. The Purdue Boilermakers continued to show why they’re one of the nation’s top teams, while the Oklahoma Sooners fell on the road against the Kansas State Wildcats by 18 points.
Then, in the Southland Conference, the Nicholls Colonels continued their strong play, moving to 6-1 against league opponents with a 30-point win over the Texas A&M-CC Islanders, 91-61.
On Wednesday night, the rest of the Southland Conference will look to keep pace with the Colonels. In Abilene, TX, the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks and Abilene Christian Wildcats will square off in a battle of two top contenders in the conference. Both come into the day with four league wins, and will look to inch closer to the top spot.
Here’s what you need to know in advance of our Game of the Day for January 17th between the Lumberjacks and Wildcats.
Last Time Out
After a loss in their Southland Conference opener to the Southeastern Louisiana Lions, the Lumberjacks have been on quite a roll. They entered their contest with the Incarnate Word Cardinals on a three game winning streak, and were looking to move to 4-1 in conference play. After trailing for close to 10 minutes in the first half, they pulled away for the 83-63 victory over the Cardinals.
The Lumberjacks took an 11-point lead at the break, and padded their lead in the second frame.
Kevon Harris led all scorers on the night, posting 19 points to go along with his 10 rebounds. He was just 5-of-13 from the floor, but was 8-of-9 from the free throw line in the win. Shannon Bogues came off the bench to add 17 points, while Leon Gilmore III chipped in with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
Like the Lumberjacks, a loss to Southeastern Louisiana kicked off a winning streak for Abilene Christian. After the Wildcats fell to the Lions, they answered with a road win over the Houston Baptist Huskies. Then, in their last outing, they completed a perfect two game road trip. Abilene Christian took the lead early in the second half against the Northwestern State Demons, and pulled away for the 69-58 victory.
The Wildcats have alternated a loss with two wins over their first six Southland Conference games (L-W-W-L-W-W).
Five players scored in double figures for the Wildcats, led by 15 points from Payten Ricks. Guard Jaylen Franklin had 13 points and four rebounds, while Jalone Friday has 12 points and four rebounds of his own.
During the 2016-17 season, Stephen F. Austin and Abilene Christian met just once, on January 7th inside Moody Coliseum in Abilene. The Wildcats took a 12-point lead into the break, and came away with the 69-60 victory when all was said and done.
Off the bench, Ricks led the way for Abilene Christian with 15 points. Franklin led the way for the starters, scoring 11 points to go along with eight rebounds, while Jaren Lewis had 10 points and six rebounds of his own in the win. In total, the Wildcats had eight players score at least five points, using their depth and balance to carry them to the win.
Guard Ty Charles led the way for the Lumberjacks, also off the bench. He recorded 15 points and 14 rebounds for the double-double. Isaiah Taylor added 12 points off the bench, and the reserves accounted for 33 of the team’s 60 points in the loss.
Players to Watch
Stephen F. Austin – TJ Holyfield
Junior forward TJ Holyfield has been a consistent force on both ends of the floor for the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks this season. The 6’8” forward from Albuquerque, NM is second on the team in scoring, averaging 14.9 points to go along with a team-high 6.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest. In the Lumberjacks’ season opener against the Longwood Lancers, Holyfield went for 18 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and four steals. That performance set the tone for the rest of the season, as he has at least seven rebounds on 13 occasions, and double digit points in 15 games. He has recorded double digit points in each of his last seven games, and the Lumberjacks have gone 5-2 over that stretch. The battle up front on Wednesday between Holyfield and Jalone Friday will be one to keep an eye on, as they are two of the best in the conference.
Abilene Christian – Tevin Foster
Senior guard Tevin Foster is in his first season with the Abilene Christian Wildcats, and the transfer from Drury is having himself a strong year on both ends of the floor. The 5’11” guard from Lawton, OK is averaging 12.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.5 steals per contest, while shooting 45.2% from the floor and 79.7% from the free throw line. Foster opened his career at Abilene Christian with a 17-point performance, and had five straight games in double figures. He has 13 games with three or more rebounds, and 12 games with three or more assists, so he doesn’t have to score to have a strong impact on the game. Foster is one of nine players on the Wildcats’ roster who have played in all 19 games and are averaging double digit minutes per outing this season. He is a key piece of the rotation, and will look to lead Abilene Christian past the Lumberjacks on Wednesday night.
Coming into Wednesday night’s action, there are nine teams in the Southland Conference that have at least two wins, and just three games separate the team in first place from the ninth.
Both the Lumberjacks and Wildcats are two of the top teams in the conference, and come into their match-up looking to extend their respective winning streaks and make a move up in the standings. A win for Abilene Christian would put them a game out of first, while a win for the Lumberjacks would move them to just a half-game behind the conference-leading Nicholls Colonels.
It marks the first of two regular season meetings between the two teams, and both will be looking for a leg up on the other in advance of their second contest. Both teams are coming into the night playing strong basketball, so it could go either way.
Moody Coliseum wasn’t kind to the Lumberjacks last season, as they lost by nine. With Abilene Christian returning the majority of their guys from a season ago, and the team having another year under their belts, all signs point to a repeat decision that will favour the home side on Wednesday night.
Abilene Christian – 74
Stephen F. Austin – 71
– T. Bennett