With every win Bryce Alford continues to be embraced by the Bruins community, a tough group to please. He guided the team to their 27th win and a spot in the Round of 32 with a 76-59 defeat of Danny Manning’s Tulsa Golden Hurricane. The Bruins forced 16 turnovers and got another big game from sophomore shooting guard Jordan Adams. Adams, who missed the tournament last year after breaking his foot just prior, scored a game-high 21 points on 7-12 shooting from the field while also collecting eight rebounds and handing out eight assists. It was not Kyle Anderson’s best game as he turned it over five times and shot 3-11 from the field, but he did finish with eight points, six rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks – very few players in the country could make that kind of widespread impact on a “down” night. Tony Parker came off of the bench to give the Bruins a solid presence inside, scoring 11 points and grabbing six rebounds in 16 minutes of action. Norman Powell finished second in scoring with 15. After failing to get out of the opening weekend since 2008, optimism is high in Bruins country, especially since VCU was upset by Stephen F. Austin. However, the Lumberjacks are one of the most confident teams in the tournament right now and they rightfully feel like they can compete with anybody. The Bruins have to make sure to box out at every position and be patient defensively as the Lumberjacks are methodical and very accustomed to operating late in the shot clock. If they pick their spots right, though, they should be able to turn them over and create some offense with their defense.
Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
The Lumberjacks have not lost since late November. During their incredible winning streak, they’ve starred defeat square in the face several times with the odds seemingly stacked against them, only to find a way to persevere. Friday’s opening round matchup against VCU was their perseverance and resiliency’s toughest test, yet they once again found a way to win, upsetting the Rams with 77-75 in overtime. With just under four seconds left in regulation the Lumberjacks trailed by four and their upset bid was seemingly dead in the water. However, Desmond Haymon, who had struggled with his shot for most of the night, connected on a four point play to tie the ballgame up. In overtime the Lumberjacks outscored the Rams 10-8, getting a stop on the final defensive possession as the Rams went for the win in order to secure their first NCAA Tournament win in school history. The poise and patience the Lumberjacks displayed against one of the toughest defensive schemes in the country was extremely impressive and it will have to remain so in the Round of 32 against UCLA. The Bruins may not play “havoc” defense like the Rams, but they forced 16 turnovers in their opening round win against Tulsa and will see if they can force the Lumberjacks to cough it up as well after watching them give it away 17 times against the Rams. Jacob Parker, the Southland Conference Player of the Year, had 22 points for the Lumberjacks. If he can have similar success against Tony Parker and the Wear twins while the Lumberjacks stay within the confines of their offense and take good shots, this Cinderella story may not be over.