NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Nicholls erased a 12-point second half lead for the Lumberjacks to force overtime, but Stephen F. Austin hit seven of its eight free throws in the extra frame and came up with two key stops in the last minute to hold off the Colonels 62-58 on Wednesday at William R. Johnson Coliseum.
SFA (13-10, 7-3 SLC) was led by 17 points from junior swingman Antonio Bostic, but it was the Lumberjack big men - Jereal Scott and Taylor Smith - who came up huge at the foul line in the final minutes of the game to help give the `Jacks the victory.
Scott, who was just 2-for-5 from the floor on the night and had scored just two points in the first 39 minutes of the game, hit two shots from the line with just 21 seconds remaining in regulation to give SFA a late two-point lead and then scored five of his nine points in the overtime period. Meanwhile Smith, who came into the game as just a 31 percent free-throw shooter, canned a pair of key shots from the line that put SFA up for good with less than two minutes to play in overtime.
The Colonels, who trailed by two with less than 30 ticks remaining in overtime, had a chance to take the lead in the final seconds but Dantrell Thomas' three-point try rimmed out and Jonathan King collected the rebound to seal the SFA win.
Smith finished with 11 points and three rebounds on the night, along with a pair of blocks in 26 minutes of work. Desmond Haymon finished with a dozen points of his own, while King hit all six of his charity shots on his way to eight points and a team-high eight rebounds.
In all, SFA turned the ball over just 10 times and hit 21-of-29 from the foul line to overcome just a 40-percent shooting effort. The `Jacks were 4-for-6 from beyond the arc in the first half, but hit just one of nine money balls in the second half and overtime.
The Colonels (7-16, 3-8 SLC) were led by a Shane Rillieux with 17 points, while Thomas - reigning Southland Conference player of the week - finished with 16 points and nine rebounds.
It took nearly five minutes of game time for the `Jacks to finally crack the scoreboard on a short jumper by Smith and used that bucket to go on a 7-0 run; however, the Colonels answered with a 9-3 run of their own that gave them a 16-10 lead with 7:31 to play in the opening half. But SFA outscored the Colonels 16-7 to close out the opening period, thanks in large part to seven of Bostic's 11 first-half points, to take a 26-23 lead into the break.
SFA then built its lead as high as 12 points with less than nine minutes to play on consecutive buckets from Haymon, King and Hal Bateman before the Colonels began to go to work.
Nicholls did most of its work from the foul line, hitting seven foul shots in a three-minute span and eventually cut the SFA advantage to just two points at 47-45 on a layup by Thomas with just 3:19 to play.
After the teams traded scores on consecutive possessions, Thomas knotted it up when he rolled in a 15-footer with under a minute to play. Scott then drew a foul on the other end and calmly knocked in both foul shots, but Trevon Lewis managed to hit a reverse layup with less than five seconds that sent the game to extra time.
SFA trailed as late as the 2:28 mark of overtime after Sam McBeath's third three-pointer of the night made it 57-56; however, Smith managed to convert both foul shots on the next possession to put SFA up, then swatted away a Thomas jumper in the lane on the next possession to help the SFA cause.
The `Jacks have a chance to move to 8-3 in Southland play on Saturday when they travel to San Antonio for the final its final conference matchup with UTSA before the Roadrunners depart for the WAC next season. Game time is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. from the Convocation Center.