Jimmie Tramel's Southland Insider
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Thursday, January 31, 2013
1/31/13 at 5:39 AM
Stephen F. Austin: The Lumberjacks lost their first Southland Conference game when they gave up a late lead Saturday to Northwestern State. But they are at the top of the Southland standings and they already have their two toughest road games in the rear view mirror.
Oral Roberts: ORU has won four consecutive games (that's the longest current streak in the Southland Conference) and the Golden Eagles got preseason all-league player Steven Roundtree back from an injury. They are four games over .500 for the first time this season and can snare a share of first place in the league standings if they salvage a Thursday homecourt game against Nicholls State.
Sam Houston State: Once upon a time, the Bearkats were 4-1 in Southland games and seemed poised to be a surprise contender. Then came an homecourt loss to ORU that triggered a three-game losing streak. Two of the losses came in overtime games.
News and notes
Keeping things interesting: Northwestern State rallied from a seven-point deficit in the last 2:14 and used an 11-0 run at game's end to salvage a homecourt victory Saturday over Stephen F. Austin.
Before the game, Stephen F. Austin was the only Southland Conference team with an unbeaten league record. Because the Lumberjacks lost, the conference race just got a lot more dramatic.
"If Stephen F. wins that (game) - just being honest - somebody would have to do something pretty spectacular, like us running the table, to have a chance," said ORU coach Scott Sutton.
"That would have been their 12th straight win (if Stephen F. Austin had beaten Northwestern State). We have had teams that get on streaks like that and you go win a game against a Northwestern (State), those kids would be as confident as any group in the country. I think it certainly allowed some teams to get back in the race and hopefully maybe knock some of their confidence off."
Cowboys lose player: Ledrick Eackles, McNeese State's fourth-leading scorer, has left the team for personal reasons, according to coach Dave Simmons.
Like ORU, Eackles used to play in the Summit League. He spent two seasons at Oakland before transferring to McNeese State.
Eackles is the son of former NBA player Ledell Eackles and is a cousin of McNeese State assistant coach David Dumars and McNeese State icon Joe Dumars, who played on NBA championship teams in Detroit.
Because of what was cited as a minor injury, Eackles did not play in a Saturday road loss at ORU. Two days earlier, he scored a career-best 26 points in a triple-overtime loss at Central Arkansas.
Pecking order: Stephen F. Austin slipped from No. 10 to No. 12 in the CollegeInsider.com mid-major top 25 poll. Gonzaga and Wichita State were ranked No. 1 and No. 2. Northwestern State and ORU are unranked in the mid-major poll, but they are in the "others receiving votes" category.
Iron man: ORU senior guard Warren Niles leads the Southland Conference in minutes played (36.3 per game). He averages 37.9 minutes in conference games.
Player of the week: Central Arkansas senior forward Jarvis Garner, a 6-foot-7 transfer from Connors State, was named the Southland's player of the week. He hit two critical 3-pointers in a triple overtime homecourt victory over McNeese State last week. The first was a 30-footer that forced overtime and the second was a 28-footer that forced a second overtime. He matched career-highs with 38 points and 15 rebounds.
ORU's nominee for player of the week was junior forward Shawn Glover, who scored a career-best 24 points in each of the last two games.
1. Stephen F. Austin: Lumberjacks own a half-game lead over ORU after Wednesday victory over McNeese State.
2. Oral Roberts: Said McNeese State coach Dave Simmons after loss to ORU, "They have a great inside game."
3. Northwestern State: Nation's No. 1 scoring team beat Stephen F. Austin despite scoring season-low 61 points.
4. Southeastern Louisiana: Lions are tied for fourth in Southland standings and they're 2-0 against next two teams on this list.
5. Nicholls State: Colonels are the only team outside top three in the standings with a victory over any of league's three best teams.
6. Sam Houston State: Bearkats get a week off to regroup before road game at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
7. Central Arkansas: Bears have won three Southland games in a row for first time since joining league.
8. McNeese State: Next win will be the Cowboys' 300th league win in Southland history.
9. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: Islanders get seven of next nine games at home.
10. Lamar: Cardinals, 0-8 in league play, get no breaks this week. They host Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern State.
Game of the week: Nicholls State at ORU, 7:30 p.m. Thursday
This week's Southland Conference slate lacks headliner games because, with the exception of ORU, every team in the top three of the conference standings will face squads in the bottom half of the standings.
The Golden Eagles will play the teams (Nicholls State, Southeastern Louisiana) which are tied for fourth place on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
Nicholls State is two weeks removed from a road upset of Northwestern State.
The Colonels rallied from an 18-point deficit Saturday to beat Sam Houston State.