SFA Lumberjack fans may be a little perplexed after their first two games. But no reason for concern. Yet.
The Jacks had a sluggish season opening win against LSU-Alexandria (NAIA). It was a win head coach Kyle Keller said, “was actually a great game for them, and an obvious learning experience.”
Two days later the ‘Jacks took the floor to face another non-D1 opponent in Mary Hardin-Baylor (Southern was previously scheduled for this date but had to cancel). And initially the game went as expected. SFA dominated the first half, jumping out to a 22-point lead at the break. But the second half was a much different story.
The Lumberjacks return a strong group of seniors in Gavin Kensmil, Roti Ware, and David Kachelries (along with returning starter Calvin Solomon). However, the rest of the roster is mostly brand new and needs time to learn how to play with the program. This includes several highly touted freshmen playing in their first ever collegiate games.
Thursday night was definitely much different, especially in the first half where we saw Keller’s famous “Press U.” The intensity that was perhaps missing in the first game, was a bright spot early on. Led by Freshmen Jaylin Jackson-Posey and Sadaidriene Hall, SFA controlled the tempo and forced UMHB into 26 total turnovers on the night (14 steals). More specifically, the group played terrific on-ball defense, denied passes, and got into the passing lanes for some easy fast break points and lead 44-22 at the half.
The ‘Jacks came out of the locker room and looked to be on cruise control, opening up a 32-point lead while committing just 8 turnovers. But that’s where the night took a turn.
With 13:20 remaining in the game, Roti Ware hit a jumper to put SFA in front 63-33. SFA managed just 13 points the remainder of the game. Final score: 76-63. The big concern is the carelessness that we saw on Tuesday night. Perhaps just falling asleep with the big lead, SFA ended the night with 22 turnovers on Thursday.
The Crusaders did a fantastic job sagging down on Kensmil and preventing the traditional post feed that the Lumberjacks rely on. Kensmil finished the night with 8 points on 4 of 7 shooting. However, Kensmil pulled down 5 offensive rebounds and created several second chance opportunities. Kachelries shot the ball better in Game 2 and was able to get the ball into the paint when the post feed wasn’t there. However, overall, Kachelries needs to do a better job distributing and taking care of the ball (3 Assists and 4 TO’s).
The two bright spots again for SFA against UMHB were Jackson-Posey and Hall. Jackson-Posey was expected to be an immediate contributor last year as a true freshman. However, his season was cut short due to injury. But we saw exactly what he can be last night. A really good all-around player. Solid on-ball defense (6 steals), and a confident ball handler and shooter. DayDay Hall was everywhere in the first half, and provided that spark that was missing against LSU-A. He didn’t log many minutes in the second half, which I chalk up to Keller trying some different combinations and tactics.
It’s again too early to be concerned for the Lumberjack Nation. They just need to get more games under their belts and find more contributions from their bench and newcomers.
Next Up for SFA
Stephen F. Austin returns this Sunday at home in a massive Mid-Major contest with South Dakota State (KenPom #87), who easily handled Bradley in their season opener. The Jackrabbits are on the road tonight vs #14 Alabama before traveling to Nacogdoches. The Battle of the Jacks is set for a 2:00 CT tip-off on ESPN+.