Thibodeaux scores career-high 24 Wednesday at SFA in 78-68 UNO defeat
Privateers cut 15-point deficit to two three times in the second
NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Travin Thibodeaux finished 10-of-13 for a career and game-high 24 points and added seven rebounds and five assists and the University of New Orleans (7-9, 4-1 Southland) cut the 15-point Stephen F. Austin State University (14-3, 4-1 Southland) lead to two three times in the second before the Lumberjacks escaped its home floor with a 78-68 victory Wednesday evening.
Thibodeaux had 14 of his 24 in the second half and all five of his assists came in the second stanza. The second also featured a turn of events shooting the ball as New Orleans went 15-of-24 from the field.
The victory improved SFA’s record at William R. Johnson Coliseum to 10-0 as the Jacks remain the toughest team to beat at home in NCAA Division I since the start of the 2012-13 season (81-3).
“It wasn’t our best night from top to bottom,” said head coach Mark Slessinger. “Once we got into rhythm, we cut their lead to two but didn’t come up with the crucial stops down the stretch. I take full ownership for this and it starts with me. We didn’t guard well and couldn’t get it dialed in quick enough to get stops when we scored quickly.”
Stephen F. Austin jumped out to a 19-4 lead before the under-12 media but Thibodeaux followed the break with six unanswered points to cut the deficit to single digits.
Entering Wednesday, SFA was second in the nation in steals and turnovers forced but the Privateers looked dominant on the defensive end at the tail end of the half, forcing four turnovers and holding the Jacks to 0-of-3 shooting for five minutes, cutting the Purple and White’s lead to five with 59 seconds remaining in the first. The Lumberjacks closed the half with three free throws and a 33-25 lead.
Thibodeaux ended the frame with a game-high 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting, his 35th career double digit contest and ninth consecutive ballgame with 10-plus points. Diontae Champion swiped two passes and added six points and Michael Zeno came off the bench with four points and four rebounds.
The Jacks increased their lead to 10 early in the stanza but the Privateers continued to chip away with five consecutive points, highlighted by Champion reaching double figures on a jumper off the Thibodeaux dish, at 14:00
SFA was forced to sit TJ Holyfield with four fouls early in the half and the Privateers and Jacks traded points and cut it to five three more times, capped off by Damion Rosser’s layup. On the ensuing possession, Zeno swatted away the Stephen F. Austin shot and connected on a floater to make it a three-point ballgame with 11:20 to play.
Minutes later, Thibodeaux’s banker made it 60-56 SFA and the senior forced an Ivan Canete travel to head into the under-8 media. Coming out the break, Zeno muscled his way into the lane for two to make it a one-possession ballgame.
Canete followed with a tip-in and New Orleans’ leading scorer reached 20 as Thibodeaux hit the first of two from the charity stripe. Makur Puou’s tip back led to a second chance opportunity and Rosser hit the first of two as the Jacks lead became two again with 5:57 to play.
Holyfield checked back into the game and traded points with Rosser but Canete’s triple put SFA ahead 67-62 at the final media of the game.
Thibodeaux hit one of two free throws but a Ty Charles was followed with a Kevon Harris dunk as Bryson Robinson appeared to trip, giving the Lumberjacks a 71-63 cushion with 2:10 left to play.
Thibodeaux reached a new career-high, draining his second triple for 24 points, cutting the SFA lead to 73-68 with 51.8 remaining.
Off the three-point attempt, Ezekiel Charles tipped the rebound to Thibodeaux and the senior laid it home but was called for a charge with 34.9 ticks to go.
INSIDE THE BOX
Three players reached double figures and the Privateers shot 62.5 percent from the field in the second half. For the Jacks, four players reached double digits, led by Canete’s 23. Thibodeaux was the game’s leading scorers with 24 points and the senior added seven rebounds and five assists.
Champion looked strong but was hit with what appeared to be an elbow and was taken out of the game. He finished with 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting, three rebounds and two steals.
The Privateers begin a three-game homestand with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Saturday at 4:15 p.m.
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