Rushed Reactions: #14 Stephen F. Austin 70, #3 West Virginia 56

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 18th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

SFA Celebrates a Huge NCAA Tournament Win (USA Today Images)

SFA Celebrates a Huge NCAA Tournament Win (USA Today Images)

  1. West Virginia was exposed. The Mountaineers have made a living all season by forcing turnovers. Tonight, West Virginia really struggled to turn Stephen F. Austin over, as the Lumberjacks did an outstanding job protecting the basketball. The Mountaineers created only seven SFA turnovers and more damningly, were outscored 29 to 4 in points off turnovers. West Virginia dominated on the backboards, but the 25-point deficit in the points off turnovers category proved insurmountable. It didn’t help that West Virginia lost its composure midway through the second half, which allowed the Lumberjacks to hammer the final nail in the coffin. It was rare this season, but Bob Huggins’ team is average at best when it can’t turn the opponent over. The Mountaineers just do not score the ball consistently enough in the halfcourt to overcome a lack of transition opportunities.
  2. Why was Stephen F. Austin a #14 seed? Did the Lumberjacks look like one of the worst teams in the field to you? Not a chance. Score one for KenPom, who had Stephen F. Austin rated 33rd in his metrics, which should translate to a 9-seed. Thomas Walkup could play significant minutes for almost any high major team in the country, and Brad Underwood sure can coach. He should be a hot name on the coaching market, especially with two Big 12 jobs opening up recently. Any potential seeding injustice doesn’t matter now, however — the third-seeded Mountaineers are heading home.
  3. Stephen F. Austin’s weaknesses were offset by West Virginia’s weaknesses. Coming into the game, the Lumberjacks were averaging 12 turnovers per game and had middling free throw rates. In this matchup against West Virginia, none of this was a big deal. The Mountaineers put their opponents on the free throw line more often than anyone during the regular season, while also turning the ball over at a high rat — both traits played right into the hands of the Lumberjacks. It always comes down to matchups in this tournament, and this was a good one for Underwood’s team, who exploited West Virginia’s weaknesses in cooking up the upset.

Star of the Game: Thomas Walkup, Stephen F. Austin. This was obvious to anyone who watched, but the Lumberjacks had the best player on the court tonight. Walkup completely took over the game by getting to the foul line at will and handling the ball with poise at all times. After the game, Underwood heaped praise on his senior and for good reason. He was dominant in carrying his team to the next round.

Sights and Sounds: It was a raucous arena for the early evening session. The crowd started sensing an upset midway through the second half and exploded as Stephen F. Austin took over the game down the stretch with athletic plays. As it usually goes, the non-partisan fans in the crowd got behind the underdog.


  • West Virgina’s Devin Williams: “That’s what happens in this tournament when you don’t take people serious.”  That statement was backed up by Esa Ahmad.
  • Thomas Walkup on his team: “I think that people realize we’re the real deal.”
  • SFA head coach Brad Underwood on Walkup: “If I had to start a team, I’m going to be hard pressed to find one that I would take over him.”
  • West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins, on his team’s turnover problems: “I don’t know why anybody would waste energy pressing us. We’ll throw it to you regardless. That would be a waste of energy really. We’re very charitable. We’re one of the most charitable groups in college basketball. The second straight game we’ve turned it over 20 times.”

What’s Next: Stephen F. Austin advances to Sunday’s second round against either #6 Notre Dame or #11 Michigan. That game will tip-off 30 minutes following the conclusion of Villanova and Iowa, which gets going at 12:10 PM eastern. West Virginia finishes this season with a strong 26-9 record, but is knocked out of the tournament much earlier than most expected. The Mountaineers become the third Big 12 team to lose in the First Round.

Brian Otskey (269 Posts)

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