Stephen F. Austin
Latrell Jossell leads SFA in 3-point shooting and will be a key piece for the Jacks on Thursday night. Courtesy SFA Athletics.

WAC Tournament Preview: Abilene Christian vs. Stephen F. Austin

Abilene Christian and Stephen F. Austin know each other very well. And the Battle of the Purple and White goes down on Thursday night at the Orleans Arena. Stephen F. Austin swept the season series. But, it wasn’t without some drama. Day-Day Hall hit a turnaround jumper with three seconds to play to give SFA a 73-71 win over the Wildcats on Feb. 26 in Nacogdoches.

And considering both schools have an NCAA Tournament appearance under their belts in recent years, it makes this game even more intriguing. Stephen F. Austin played in the 2017-18 NCAA Tournament. The Lumberjacks lost to 3-seed Texas Tech. Abilene Christian won the Southland Conference Tournament in 2020-21. And the Wildcats knocked off 3-seed Texas in the first round before losing to 11-seed UCLA in the second round.

No. 6 Abilene Christian 21-9 (11-7 in the WAC)

Abilene Christian is fresh off a an 82-74 win on Wednesday night over Utah Valley. Airion Simmons had 16 of his team-high 19 points in the second half as the Wildcats survived and advanced. Tobias Cameron was also really good for Brette Tanner’s squad. Cameron had 12 first-half points to keep ACU within striking distance.

And it was Cameron’s 3-pointer with just over 12 minutes to play that gave ACU its first lead of the game. Add in the Cameron Steele was 3-5 from deep and you can see that the ACU bigs were huge on Wednesday night.

The Wildcats also forced 21 turnovers in the win and scored 24 points off those turnovers. In its two games against Stephen F. Austin this season, Abilene Christian forced 21.5 turnovers in a pair of losses.

Player to Watch:

Sr. G Tobias Cameron

On Wednesday night, it was Tobias Cameron that kept Abilene Christian in the ball game in the first half. Whether it was knocking down a 3-pointer or attacking the rim, ‘Bias’ as they call him, got it done. Cameron’s second 3-pointer of the second half with 12:02 to play gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game. Cameron’s athleticism and aggressiveness allow him to play multiple positions. The biggest key is adjusting to Stephen F. Austin’s physicality. And Cameron is experienced to enough to handle that and understand he plays a significant role for Brette Tanner.

No. 3 Stephen F. Austin 22-8 (14-4 in the WAC)

Here you go, Lumberjacks. You took your postseason ban in 2020-21 so that you can make a run at the WAC Tournament in 2021-22. Now, you are on a 10-game winning streak, won a share of the regular season crown, and are the hottest team in the WAC. So, here is your moment. It’s why Gavin Kensmil and David Kachelries, among others, stayed at SFA.

Yes, SFA is the hottest team in the WAC with 10 straight wins. Led by Gavin Kensmil, the Lumberjacks came out of nowhere to win a share of the WAC regular season crown. SFA became the first team since February, 2017 to beat New Mexico State at the Pan American Center. And the Lumberjacks swept the season series against Abilene Christian. Kensmil is a First Team All-WAC selection. Freshman guard Jaylin Jackson-Posey was selected as the Sixth Man of the Year. And Kyle Keller has three other freshman he relies heavily on in Latrell Jossell, Day-Day Hall, and Derrick Tezeno. It was Hall’s buzzer-beater that gave the Jacks a 73-71 win over ACU back on Feb. 26.

Player to Watch:

Fr. G Latrell Jossell

It will be the plan to stop Gavin Kensmil when ACU puts together its scout. So, this is where Jossell comes in. The Kansas transfer leads Stephen F. Austin in 3-pointers made with 60. And being able to knock down the 3 will be key to open things up in the paint for Kensmil. Jossell is shooting 37 percent from deep. But, he also has the ability to light it up when he is in rhythm. The other thing is taking care of the basketball. Abilene Christian likes to get after it defensively especially on the guard line. So, can Jossell, David Kachelries, Day-Day Hall and Jaylin Jackson-Posey handle the pressure? Keep an eye on it.

Who will win the Battle of the Purple and White? Stephen F. Austin has already won twice. Is the third time the charm for Abilene Christian? Tip off is set for 8:30 p.m. PT on ESPN+.

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