Stephen F. Austin (26-5) at Massachusetts (21-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 18th, 6:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mullins Center (9,493) -- Amherst, Massachusetts. Television: ESPNU. NIT Record: Stephen F. Austin 1-1, Massachusetts 6-11. Series Record: First ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Minutemen of Massachusetts take to the Mullins Center hardwood tonight, hosting the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks in a first-round NIT battle. Stephen F. Austin was knocked out of the Southland Conference Tournament on Saturday night after dropping a heartbreaking 69-66 decision to Northwestern State. The Lumberjacks did, however, capture the SLC regular season championship when they posted a 13-3 ledger against league foes. As for UMass, it was stunned in a 69-65 final by sixth-seeded Charlotte in Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament last Thursday, falling to 21-10 overall on the season. The Minutemen closed out the regular slate with victories over George Washington and La Salle, and posted a 10-6 mark in league play. Tonight's meeting marks the first-ever between these two programs in men's basketball.
Stephen F. Austin shot a solid 50.0 percent from the floor, and held Northwestern State to a lackluster 41.4 percent shooting effort, but the Lumberjacks committed 18 turnovers and fell by three. Matt Kingsley scored 18 points and collected eight rebounds to pace SFA in the losing effort, while Gerald Fonzie tallied 14 points to go with five assists for the Lumberjacks. The club has averaged just 67.5 ppg this season, and is led by Josh Alexander (16.0 ppg). Also boasting a double-figure scoring average for the Lumberjacks is Matt Kingsley, who tallies 15.9 ppg to go with 5.8 rpg.
UMass shot a respectable 46.2 percent from the field and held Charlotte to a mere 35.8 percent, but the Minutemen blew an 18-point halftime lead to fall by four last Thursday night. The club shot just 40.7 percent from the floor in the second stanza, while allowing the 49ers to convert 50.0 percent of its field goal attempts, including 9-of-14 from beyond the arc, over the same period of time. Gary Forbes and Etienne Brower tallied 14 points and collected eight rebounds each to pace the Minutemen, while Chris Lowe added 12 points in the losing effort. Chris Lowe chipped in with 11. Forbes has been a force for UMass this season, leading the club in both scoring (20.1 ppg) as well as rebounding (7.9 rpg), while Harris checks in as the team's second-leading scorer with 17.9 ppg. Brower and Lowe have also been solid contributors, tallying 12.9 and 12.1 ppg, respectively.
Give the advantage to the home team here, especially since UMass is the more talented club. The Minutemen should have little trouble dispatching of the Lumberjacks.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Massachusetts 74, Stephen F. Austin 65
03/18 10:30:12 ET