The 3rd round of the NCAA tournament continues when the #4 UCLA Bruins (27-8, 12-6 Pac-12) take on the #12 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (32-2, 18-0 Southland) in a South Region battle. Both teams opened up tournament play with two very different paths to victory. UCLA beat #13 Tulsa behind a strong second-half. Stephen F. Austin forced overtime against a good #5 VCU team that wilted against the Lumberjacks.
Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, A Cinderella In The Making
Did you see how Stephen F. Austin victory over VCU? If not, it was basically like this: comeback, four-point play, overtime, victory, awesome. Madness Madness baby! It’s, um, insane.
SFA hung around with VCU, who lead for most of the game. The Rams seemed to be in control with three seconds left, up by four, when Lumberjack’s guard Desmond Haymon hit an improbable three while being fouled. Hit got the extra point and sent it into overtime where they shocked VCU with a 2-point win.
It is not so much luck as the fact that Stephen F. Austin knows how to win. They are 32-2 on the season, riding a 29-game win streak that started November 26th. This Texas team is not fooling around and should be considered extremely dangerous.
Some Very Explosive Starters
Haymon is one of two top scorers for SFA as he is getting 14.4 points per game. If it is apparent from the VCU game, this guy can hit the outside shot and will be trouble for UCLA if they sleep on him. He is explosive, but not as much as his counterpart, Jacob Parker.
Parker is the other Lumberjack claiming the 14.4 ppg, but it is just a small part of what he can do. He leads the team in rebounds (7.0 rpg), steals (1.4 spg, tied with the other starting forward, Nikola Gajic) and three point shooting percentage (.489). He does this all at the height of 6’6”, the tallest starter for SFA. Although, that just leads to what could potentially be a mismatch problem for the Lumberjacks.
The Towers Of Westwood
One of the problems SFA will have with UCLA is the Bruin’s speed. Another problem is that speed mixed with the height of the Bruins. UCLA’s starting big men are Kyle Anderson at 6’9” and the Wear Twins, David and Travis, at 6’10”. Normally that may be a concern, but the post-season Bruins have been improving on all levels, including rebounding.
Anderson is one that SFA will not be able to contain. As much as they will try to shut him down, they will not be able to control this NBA-bound star. Not only does Anderson get 14.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg and 6.6 apg, but if he does have a less-than-stellar game like he did against Tulsa, there are other options for the Bruins to push through to victory.
UCLA’s Plan B and C
In the post season, Jordan Adams, UCLA’s leading scorer (17.4 ppg) and Norman Powell have been unstoppable. Against Tulsa, Adams got 21 points, 8 rebounds and Powell collected 15 points. When Anderson could not get anything going, these two made sure to push the Bruins through and overwhelm Tulsa.
Even though Anderson should improve his game against SFA, look for Adams and Powell to continue their success for the Bruins. SFA may have some decent defense, but it is unlikely they have faced the athleticism that these Bruins will unleash on them.
And this isn’t even their secret weapon.
Did You Know?
UCLA forward Travis Wear is 20-for-26 shooting (76.9%) in four post-season games. But keep this to yourselves, Bruin fans. You would not want the Lumberjacks to get a hold of this information, would you?
Prediction: Stephen F. Austin 68 – UCLA 73