Brad Underwood's Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks were mere seconds away from heading into unchartered waters for their program, and it seemed as if SFA was destined to be America's next Cinderella in the Sweet 16. Instead, Notre Dame freshman Rex Pflueger made his only basket of the game, a chaotic third attempt tip in, to down the Lumberjacks 76-75 at the Barclays Center.
The loss closes the college career of Thomas Walkup, who was incredible for the Lumberjacks this afternoon with 21 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Walkup's "110% style" may have cost SFA though at the end as they abandoned their offense to let Walkup dominate the game. Was it the right strategy? Absolutely. But Walkup's last iso, hero ball moment ended in a miss with 23 seconds left and allowed Notre Dame an opportunity to win the game, an opportunity they evidently seized.
Despite the last offensive possession, Walkup was a hero today not a goat. In his fifth NCAA Tournament, he was good as ever and will be forever remembered as a hero in March thanks to SFA's upset wins over VCU and West Virginia over the past three years. He leaves SFA with 23.29 win shares, which is currently within the top thirty players of the last twenty-two years.
Let's not forget Walkup's supporting cast which features fellow seniors Trey Pinkney and Demetrious Floyd. Floyd posted 16 points in his final game at SFA while Pinkney added 5 points and eight assists. The Lumberjacks also had to play a bit shorthanded with C.J. Williams battling the flu and being extremely limited.
The Walkup Era now concludes with an incredible record of 114-19 in Nacogdoches. Brad Underwood has been the focal point of many rumors over his three-year tenure in this offseason will be no different, especially with nearby gigs at TCU and Oklahoma State open.
The good news for Lumberjack fans is there is still plenty of talent left on this roster. Freshman T.J. Holyfield went for 15 points, five rebounds, and three blocks today while sophomore Ty Charles posted 9 points and four steals. Whether it's Underwood or someone else at the helm for SFA, the Lumberjacks will still be a Southland contender and will no doubt play fun, up-tempo basketball.