2011-12 Turns Into Another Season Of Success For SFA
April 19, 2012
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - It wasn't the start that the Lumberjacks wanted in 2011-12, but a strong second half of the season still managed to transform the year into another successful one for the `Jacks, including the program's fourth 20-win campaign in the last five years.
Head coach Danny Kaspar and the `Jacks were coming off its toughest year in since 2005-06, and only returned four players from an 18-win team in 2010-11; however, a new crop of players joined the four returners in buying into Kaspar's defense-first philosophy and SFA finished the year not only winning 11 of its final 14 games, but also finishing as the only team in the nation to not allow 70 points in a single game on the year.
With the 20 wins, the `Jacks have the second-highest winning percentage (62 percent) among Texas schools during over the last 12 years - Kaspar's tenure - trailing only the University of Texas (72 percent) in that category.
A year after finishing the year as the top scoring defense in the nation, SFA followed that up with a lower defensive scoring average, allowing just 54.4 points per game, 2.3 points per game less than the year before. Newcomer Taylor Smith was a key cog in the SFA defensive effort, blocking more shots than any Lumberjack in the last five years, but also contributed offensively, leading the Southland with a field goal percentage of over 70 percent and pumping in over 10 points a game in league play.
Smith teamed with all-conference selection Jereal Scott to form arguably the best 1-2 punch in the post in the Southland. Scott led SFA with 12.4 points per game and followed up a first team all-SLC selection as a junior with a second team nod in his senior season. But the biggest surprise of the year was junior swing man Antoino Bostic who proved to be an iron man on the floor for the `Jacks, playing the third-most minutes of any player in the league and leading the `Jacks in scoring in conference play on his way to earning first team all-Southland Conference recognition, the first postseason recognition for him of any kind in his basketball career.
SFA was up and down in the two months leading up to the Christmas break, dropping games at San Diego and Texas Tech before registering a signature win with a 53-35 dismantling of UTEP in late November, holding the Miners to their lowest point total in the arena's history.
But after alternating wins and losses leading up to a late-December trip to Oregon, the `Jacks had to plod through a difficult trip, dropping three straight close games in Eugene, Oreg., before closing out 2011 with a blowout win of UT-Tyler to close out non-conference play at just 6-7.
It looked as though the difficult play would continue going into league play as SFA quickly fell behind red-hot Texas State 15-2 on the Bobcats' home floor in the conference opener; however, the `Jacks managed to fight back, taking its first lead in the final minute of the game and then stealing the win when Hal Bateman hit the second of three three-point buckets on the year at the buzzer. From there, SFA went on to win five of its next seven games, only dropping games to UTSA and eventual league champion UT Arlington. The `Jacks had to go to overtime to knock off Sam Houston State in Nacogdoches, then rolled by Texas State at home in the team's second meeting before suffering another setback at McNeese State.
After running its record to 8-3 in SLC play, the `Jacks got another shot at UTA, taking a 32-19 lead into the half before the Mavs rallied to take a 51-47 win and run its win streak to 16 games in the final game before the ESPN Bracket Busters game in mid February. SFA drew High Point from the Big South conference and held off the high-scoring guard duo of Shay Shine and Nick Barbour to get back into the win column, then picked up another signature win less than a week later when they traveled to Beaumont and got 20 points from Bostic in a 10-point road win over Lamar.
Those wins were part of a five-game win streak SFA went on to close out the regular season, giving the `Jacks a 12-4 conference record and clinching the No. 2 seed in the SLC Tournament in Katy and matching them up with rival Sam Houston State in the tournament's opening round.
The `Jacks then made it six wins in a row and earned their 20th win of the season with a 22-point blasting of the Bearkats before Lamar, who had not lost since its Feb. 22 loss to the `Jacks, eliminated SFA with a 55-44 win in the tournament semifinals.