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Stephen F. Austin Basketball

What We Learned: SFA stumbles out of the gate, is upset by SLU

December 29, 2017

Stephen F. Austin is 0-1 in the Southland Conference. In an upset few outside of Hammond, Louisiana saw coming, Southeastern Louisiana stunned the Lumberjacks and threw a wrench into the hype of the 2017-18 version of the team in purple and white.

There is little redeeming value other than a potential wakeup call. Southeastern Louisiana, whether they improve or not during the league season, is not a better than mediocre basketball team. There are no mental gymnastics that can put a positive spin on the events of Thursday night.

The only thing SFA can control now is how they respond. The talent and heart we've seen again and again throughout the non-conference season remains. What they do with it now, after an embarrassing defeat in enemy territory, remains to be seen.

Here's what we learned on Thursday:

We shouldn't pretend this is the first time this has happened -

Aaron Augustin's heroics saved the Lumberjacks from a similarly embarrassing situation a few weeks ago when a bad Louisiana-Monroe team took SFA to the brink at home. Those one-possession games can go either way, and if the game wasn't played in the friendly confines of William R. Johnson Coliseum, there's no telling what would have happened.

It was similar for a half against Florida A&M and North Dakota State before that.

What we had seen since then was tremendous growth in the half-court offense. SFA put on some special offensive performances during their hardest stretch of the year, at Louisiana Tech, at home against Rice, at LSU and Missouri.

Clearly, visible growth didn't erase the issue. There are still periods of dysfunction. This loss is exceedingly disappointing because most everyone thought this team was past this, but it's important to remind ourselves that a loss like this could have easily happened earlier in the season too. 

When you play solid defense, you can still win a stinker - and up to this point, SFA had. We know this team is capable of more, though. We can hope as the season drags on that we see more of the "at LSU" offense and less of the "at SLU" offense.

But we should remind ourselves that this team is, and has always been, capable of either.

Teams (and players) who embrace chaos are not good matchups for SFA -

The Lumberjacks love causing turmoil on defense. They do it every time they hit the floor and they did it per usual against Southeastern Louisiana, forcing 22 turnovers. In the end, though, it was the playmaking ability of Marlain Veal that won the game for the Lions.

Veal loves chaos. Even when it isn't forced, he plays chaotically.

When SFA's defense thrives, it does so by getting into the heads of opponents. When nothing is working offensively out of sets, even open looks don't seem to fall. A player as used to unscripted offense as Veal isn't nearly as phased.

If there has been any knock on the talented SLU point guard over the last years, it has been his tendency to play out of control. He turns the ball over more frequently then he should and his attempts to create offense out of nothing (and with a far less talented supporting cast) often backfire. 

Against SFA, it was an asset. Not because he turned it over less but because it didn't rattle him. He's used to it. That's how he plays.

When it came to crunch time, Veal was in his element. Southeastern couldn't run sets, but with a point guard like him, they hardly needed to.

SFA has to find a way to stop letting teams beat them on the free throw line -

With high-risk, high-reward defense, teams are bound to be fouled more often when they play SFA. The degree that it's happening is becoming hugely problematic, though. I'm not pretending to have a solution here but the Lumberjacks are not the first team in America to run a successful press and (some) of those teams have found the right balance.

Southeastern won the game on the free throw line. SFA's out of control fouling bailed out a relatively bad shooting team and gifted them offense they didn't deserve.

Some officiating crews are far more unforgiving than others. That's to be expected when you play an unconventional style of defense that isn't seen as frequently. When a game is being called tight, adjustments just have to be made. They weren't on Thursday.

Again, I'm not pretending to have the fix, but this problem could easily create more upset opportunities down the road if it is not managed.

There's no need to panic just yet -

Disappointing, without question. Worse still, dreams of an AP Top 25 ranking, favorable tournament seed, and other greedy aspirations took a massive hit on Thursday night. The ultimate preseason goal was a trip to the NCAA Tournament and a regular season championship.

Both remain attainable.

Wofford is not better than North Carolina, but they beat them in a basketball game. SLU is not better than SFA.

The goals are still ahead for this group, despite an obvious setback, and head coach Kyle Keller is the right man to get them back on track.

Nicholls, who comes into WRJ next week, is no slouch. If the Lumberjacks go 0-2, maybe it's time to start worrying a bit. For now, the season is young, and the potential of this team remains what it always has been.

In the words of a famous coach in the northeast, "it's on to Cincinnati" - or something.

What We Learned: SFA stumbles out of the gate, is upset by SLU

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I think Isaac nails it in this article. The ULM game was a real stinker as it turned out Not beating ULM by 15 shows how fragile this team is. The fouling is absolutely a Huge issue. Coaching is the key. Some solid coaching this week and some limited adjustments might be all it takes to right the ship. Watching the LSU and Mizzou games you can be sure that we are talented. More than any other SLC squad. Are we going to make boneheaded mistakes ? Of course. This was a biggie. This is the kind of game where Pinkney would have simply out foxed the opposition point guard We are not there yet. I'll go as far as to say that we are ripe for a big upset in the SLC tournament. We are simply to foul prone.
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Where's the post-game raw audio?
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Maybe Keller was a little to "Raw"..........
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We don't usually get audio from away games unless Isaac is able to attend.
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I agree Big Jack but what I am seeing about this team that really worries me is that we play really well against good teams and very poorly against the bad ones. You are not going yo win conference championships like that. We have to be focused for ever opponent! It's either focus or get upset. The conference is better than what the prognosticators thought.
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