Thomas Walkup stole the ball on the first possession of the game then took it down the floor, got fouled and hit a pair of free throws.
Hard to imagine a more fitting opening sequence for a record-breaking player on the nation's best team at forcing turnovers. With tonight's win on the road over Lamar, 79-58, the Lumberjacks (21-5, 14-0) stretch their NCAA best winning streak to 14 games. When that streak started the senior backcourt duo of Walkup and Trey Pinkney had won 94 games in their careers. Tonight with their 108th career win they became the winningest players in program history, passing Jake Parker's total of 107.
Walkup, who became the 'Jacks all time leading rebounder last Saturday, put up a double-double tonight with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Since the start of Southland play the Lumberjacks have been outscoring their opponents by 21.7 points per game. Once the 'Jacks got near that margin tonight they completely changed their style of play. A fast paced opening half turned into a grind out, crash the boards second half. This team simply knows how to win games.
SFA built their lead by holding top two scorers, Nick Garth and Kevin Booze, to a combined 2 of 13 from the field in the first. Those two finished the game with seven and five points, respectively.
Normally that wouldn't spell disaster for the Cardinals, who lead the Southland with 40.7 rebounds per game. But in the first half the 'Jacks outrebounded the Cardinals 28-18.
It got worse, too. Until the final minute of the game the Cardinals had fewer defensive rebounds than SFA had offensive rebounds.
Lamar had a chance to chip into the lead early in the second half as the 'Jacks came out of the break ice cold. Over the first eight minutes of the second SFA shot a meager 20% from the field. Unfortunately, Lamar shot just 25% during that span.
From that point forward the difference between these two teams was very clear. The Lumberjacks are, and have been under head coach Brad Underwood, the class of the Southland. They held a 20 point lead over the now 3-12 Cardinals and managed the game like a savvy, veteran team down the stretch. Their ability to play both up-tempo like they did in the first half, and slow and controlled in the second, bodes well for them down the stretch. Despite all their wins the Lumberjacks stand no chance of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Tonight, as they have all season long, they showed that they are beyond capable of managing out easy wins against conference foes. That's critical if they want to make a third straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.