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Stephen F. Austin Basketball

What We Learned: SFA survives ULM scare behind Augustin's late heroics

December 3, 2017
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It wasn't exactly how it was drawn up. Stephen F. Austin, off to a hot and promising start, hosting Louisiana-Monroe, a young team picked dead last in the Sun Belt, shouldn't have needed late heroics to survive at home.

Thank goodness they got them.

After a three-pointer from the Warhawks tied the game with seconds remaining on the clock, head coach Kyle Keller called timeout and drew up a play. If ULM showed zone, juniors Shannon Bogues and TJ Holyfield would run a slip screen - and they did show zone, a different one than they had played the entire rest of the game.

Coming out against a 1-3-1, Holyfield's screen was not nearly high enough to give Bogues space. Shannon lofted a contested jump shot anyway, one that bounced harmlessly off the rim. It kicked out to where sophomore Aaron Augustin was patiently waiting.

Because even though the offensive play didn't quite turn out as drawn up, head coach Kyle Keller had his point guard parked outside the arc and ready to play hero.

"He said we weren't going to score off the first shot, but the second one," Holyfield said later.

That's what they did:

And here's what we learned:

When comparing to past teams, be sure it's done fairly -

No, the Lumberjacks have not been good in their half court offense this season. There is much work to do on the scoring end and until progress is made, SFA will be vulnerable to upsets from bad teams who can shoot effectively from three.

In the past 24 hours, I've heard a number of people make references to Brad Underwood's motion offenses at SFA. When executed properly, it was a thing of beauty. It also struggled during November and December, exactly like Keller's, multiple times in multiple seasons.

Almost exactly two years ago, yes, during Thomas Walkup's senior year, yes, with Trey Pinkney and Clide Geffrard and the West Virginia Mountaineers not yet knowing what would hit them that coming March,The Sawmill's front article was titled "History suggests no problem for offensively challenged SFA."

The Lumberjacks had just fallen to a bad Tulane team, only scoring 18 points in the second half. SFA was shooting just over 35% from the field against Division I competition, had lost to Baylor by 42 points, needed late three point heroics to beat a 1-7 Texas Southern team at home - a game they trailed by 7 at halftime - and failed to register a single quality non-conference win.

That team, the same one who throttled a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament a few months later, was an offensive mess at this time in the season. Underwood's teams traditionally started slow, as the above article suggested, and it wasn't of huge concern then.

Just like there's a decent chance it won't be now. Comparing teams is fine. Just be fair about it - Keller's offense in early December against Underwood's in March is not.

Teams are going to continue to force SFA to take jump shots until they finally make some -

Early in the season, the Lumberjacks appear to lack a great jump shooter. They have some good ones, but you wouldn't know it from the early numbers. As teams have figured out just how cold the collective shooting is, they've played defense that has forced SFA to try.

I don't expect that these woes will last forever. Ty Charles is still working to get his legs underneath him but his return should be helpful. Bogues had no problem hitting those kinds of shots at the junior college level and Ivan Canete has shown the ability to get hot from behind the arc. Kevon Harris, John Comeaux, Augustin - there are a number of players who have the potential to be a solution here.

Regardless, while working on finding it, the coaches will need to get creative to beat Louisiana Tech. Without a doubt, they've watched the offensive duds against ULM and North Dakota State and they'll be ready to implement a similar strategy.

If SFA wants to win that contest against an excellent team, this would be a really good week to discover the elusive outside and mid-range shot.

SFA's crowd has the power to influence games. Too bad they don't use it enough -

With roughly six minutes left in the contest, Bogues broke away for a dunk. The crowd stood up, electrified the building, helped the 'Jacks force a turnover on the other end and draw a foul on the offensive side. The juice in the building was flowing. And then a media timeout hit.

The momentum gained, the energy injected, all of it, seemed to disipate as ULM clawed back. What could have been a back-breaking run, turned into just another momentum shift in the end.

SFA's crowd did what good crowds do. When something exciting happens, they get behind the team and help turn a good play into a good series of plays. A great crowd can do that even without relying on the team to jump start them.

The homecourt advantage in Nacogdoches is great by Southland Conference standards, even if the crowds have left a lot to be desired in this year's non-conference season. What is missing is the ability to jump start the team out of a timeout or an offensive lull. Shannon Bogues won't always have a breakaway dunk to spark a run.

Can you make noise even when that doesn't happen? That's what is standing between a good advantage in William R. Johnson Coliseum and a great one.

The biggest tests remain ahead -

No disrespect to North Dakota State or Mississippi State. Those are both good teams that will win plenty of games this year. Missouri, Louisiana Tech, and LSU may all three turn out to be better teams, though. Those three all lay ahead.

It's going to take a better product to win even one of those three without a lot of time to find it.

The Augustin-powered heroics were fun, but the need for them means something isn't clicking just yet.

Ruston, Louisiana won't be a forgiving place, in a deeply personal battle for head coach Kyle Keller, if it doesn't start in the next few days.

What We Learned: SFA survives ULM scare behind Augustin's late heroics

edstile
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Last year's team was just plain afraid to shoot. This one is too, but not as bad. If you're open, take the dadgum shot and trust your offensive rebounders, Jacks!!
nacluth
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There were some absolutely pitiful offensive games under Underwood. At times, when Meech or Jared or Parker were cold, they seemed completely one dimensional - relying on Walkup to dribble drive over and over. We beat a Cal State - Northridge team shooting 38%. Our loss to Corpus (in February!) was one of the most dismal in a stretch of dismal performances. We were still better than the whole Southland, but our offense was trash. But 17-1 right?

I feel like this year is similar to Underwood's second year. We're not going to surprise anyone. We're going to have ugly wins. We're going to win. 100% better than last year, and the future is looking bright.
Ryan
Kinnaird Guitars
fortWorthJack
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I agree with most points made except for a few observations. In reference to the BU years, at the beginning of each year the offense wasn't perfect in terms of output, however the body of work remained the same. Big games we played against Baylor and Xavier were not losses because we couldn't create quality chances, it was because we were cold from shooting. I remember those Baylor games and we would move the ball over the place inside and out with precision. I remember Xavier's coach saying, "that is the hardest working basketball team we have played." With Keller, the offense is missing the body of work. And I believe the shooting droughts are from the lack of quality chances we are getting and the lack of possessions. Brad's teams always took more shots than the opposition. If we don't improve in the system we can't expect better shooting.
INiedrauer
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I hear what you're saying but I would contend that if even 3-4 of the open three point attempts went in yesterday, the floor would have opened up for some more traditional offense. The cold shooting seems to be a cause of the body of work issues more than the other way around - at least as I've observed it.

It's easy to guard the paint when you don't feel threatened by jump shots.
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Isaac Niedrauer
@INiedrauer


Gazette1
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Here's my thoughts for what they are worth. We're too bunched up on our half court offense. We need to spread out more. We started scoring more at the end because we rotated our offense and forced their defense to not be able to play defense as if they were playing a shell drill. When we are bunched up they can double team more. T. J. was able to knock down some threes because he was rotating and getting open. Our three point shots earlier were often desperation shots at the end of the clock. They were forced three attempts. Brad's offense was always spread out more. Also the coach is wanting our players to score more from set plays instead of having players like Bogues and Kevon create.Hopefully our coaches will figure out the solution. What discourages me is the fact that we are not making adjustments in those long scoring droughts. I was impressed with Monroe's coaching staff. They were creating plays. I am not trying to criticize our coaches. It's still early in the process and Ty missed three three pointers when he had open looks. He is rusty and doesn't seem to have much confidence in his shot right now. They were backing off of him and letting him shoot. They do the same with Aaron. Aaron is a pretty good three point shooter and needs to take some of those shots.
nacluth
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Pretty much agree here. It's still in progress. We'll see if we can be more effective against Tech this week with a couple days to prepare. I was watching Gilmore in pre-game, and he hit at least half his threes. He gets stuck at the top of the key unchallenged more than anyone because he doesn't shoot. I would like to see more attempts from him (kind of like when Trey was here). I still see progress from last year, and I hope it builds.
edstile
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You are spot on about Gilmore. Shoot the dang ball, Leon!
TallTexan
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INiedrauer said:

I hear what you're saying but I would contend that if even 3-4 of the open three point attempts went in yesterday, the floor would have opened up for some more traditional offense. The cold shooting seems to be a cause of the body of work issues more than the other way around - at least as I've observed it.

It's easy to guard the paint when you don't feel threatened by jump shots.
Enjoyed the article Isaac, I was thinking about the Underwood vs Keller teams earlier today when this same concept occurred to me. When I think of Underwood's Tenure, I see him yelling at the team vs Texas to never take a play off because good teams will beat you, then Haymond hitting the 3 vs VCU, then the WVU game, & everything in between those moments looks pretty darn good in retrospect.

But can you do some projecting for me? I'm not a basketball strategy prodigy by any stretch of the imagination, but what will Keller's ideal team look like? Will we be playing a full court press like in the Underwood years? Danny Ball on the offensive end? A motion offense? Phil Jackson's Triangle Offense? I'm just curious what style we should expect when this team is finally firing on all cylinders.

Underwood teams did start slow, it took a while for them to gel, which is why I never expected to win big games early in the season.
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