With the next three games on the schedule against the two other Southland Conference leaders staring them in the face — with SFA being the third — and Saturday’s road matchup with Lamar having its own challenges, the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks took care of the here and now Wednesday night in William R. Johnson Coliseum.
SFA, which has won its last three games by an average of 44 point and has a four-game winning streak, held rival Northwestern State to only 20.4% (17-of-56) from the field, while outscoring the Lady Demons 21-2 in the crucial second period, the Ladyjacks rolled to an 89-40 victory.
The win, combined with league-leading Sam Houston State’s (13-5, 8-1 SLC) 81-73 setback to Abilene Christian (14-2, 6-1 SLC) in Abilene, pulls the Ladyjacks (14-3, 7-1 SLC) to within one-half game of the Bearkats, while holding a one-half game lead over third-place ACU.
The SFA win was another dominating one, as the Ladyjacks turned the ball over only 13 times, compared to 23 for the Lady Demons. SFA held a 27-7 advantage in points off turnovers, a 46-18 lead in points in the paint, a 23-2 advantage in fast break points and a 33-10 lead in bench points in the 49-point win.
“I thought we were pretty complete on both ends of the floor, outside those first few minutes when we were feeling each other out a little bit,” said SFA head coach Mark Kellogg. “I thought the second quarter was fantastic. We were flying around on defense, getting touches, tips, deflections, trying to disrupt what they do.
“(Northwestern State) does a lot of stuff and it’s a lot to prepare for. But I was really proud of the defensive effort, especially in the second quarter, which kind of set the tone.”
All 11 players that stepped on the floor for the Ladyjacks played at least 10 minutes and scored points, which Kellogg said will be helpful with the rough road ahead beginning Saturday against the Cardinals.
“We were trying to spread out the minutes and not get anyone too many because we play again on Saturday. We got some of the younger kids quality minutes and that keeps us fresh.”
Sophomore guard Stephanie Visscher led the balanced SFA attack with 19 points, three rebounds, three steals and a pair of assists. Sophomore Aiyana Johnson added 18 points, to go along with three boards. Junior Marissa Banfield, junior Alyssa Mayfield and sophomore Aaliyah Johnson all scored seven points. Banfield added nine assists, Mayfield produced two steals and three rebounds, while Johnson chipped in four boards.
SFA was blistering from the field, finishing the night hitting 30-of-52 (57.7%) from the field, including 7-of-18 (38.9%) from behind the three-point arc.
The Ladyjacks grabbed a 20-10 lead after the first quarter, then blew the game open as they bolted to a 41-12 lead at the break.