Perfection In Southland Conference
March 8, 2014
NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The Stephen F. Austin men’s basketball finished off perfection in Southland Conference play, defeating Central Arkansas 85-61 on Saturday evening in William R. Johnson Coliseum. The Lumberjacks finish the regular season with a 29-2 record and a perfect 18-0 mark in conference.
SFA becomes just the 18th team in NCAA history to finish undefeated in conference play of at least 18 games and the third this season, joining top-ranked Florida (18-0) and second-ranked Wichita State (18-0). The ‘Jacks also extend both of their lengthy streaks, winning its 26th-straight game (second in the nation) and its 33rd-straight home game, which is tied for the nation’s lead.
With the win over UCA (8-21, 5-13), SFA becomes the first SLC team to finish undefeated in league play since Arkansas State finished 4-0 in 1973-74 and just the fifth member of the league to do so in the SLC’s 51-year history. The ‘Jacks, besides the 1973-74 ASU squad, join Louisiana Tech (8-0 in 1971-72), Arkansas St. (8-0 in 1966-67) and Abilene Christian (8-0 in 1965-66).
SFA also becomes the first SLC school to finish with 18 wins in conference play and the first to reach 29 wins in the regular season. The 29 wins ties the most by a league school in conference history, joining the 1984-85 Louisiana Tech team that finished 29-3 and went to the Sweet 16.
Sophomore Thomas Walkup led the way with 24 points and eight rebounds for the ‘Jacks with senior Desmond Haymon adding 20 points and eight rebounds in his final game in the Coliseum. Fellow senior Deshaunt Walker finished with 16 points, while junior Jacob Parker posted his ninth double-double, finishing with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Up 17-14 (12:53) in the first half, Walker sparked a 17-5 run to push SFA out front 34-19, its largest lead of the half, with just under five minutes before the break. However the Bears closed on an 11-8 run, to cut the deficit to 12 points (42-30) headed into the lockerroom.
In the second half, SFA’s double-digit lead never diminished and built to as high as 29 points (73-44) to cap off the perfect conference run.
The victory marks the final game for seniors Nikola Gajic, Haymon and Walker. Haymon enters the postseason conference tournament as the all-time winningest player in the Division I era for the ‘Jacks, while Gajic and Walker are two of the all-time winningest players in a two-year span at 56 wins. Gajic and Walker also become the first two SFA players to close their careers undefeated at home.
The ‘Jacks, the No. 1 seed, enter the Southland Conference Tournament on a two-game bye. SFA will not play until Friday, Mar. 14, in the semifinal game, playing the winner of the Thursday’s game in their bracket.