Unwelcome home

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2003

LORMAN &045; It’s just the second game of a new season with new players and a new coaching staff.

The debut was Tuesday, a 40-point loss on the road that could have been by more than that. So when the Alcorn State Braves dropped an 80-63 decision in their home opener to Stephen F. Austin, there were plenty of mixed feelings as the 2003-04 starts rolling for the everything’s-new Braves.

There was solace in the 17-point loss, one that featured play much better than on Tuesday and could have gone the other way had some things happened differently.

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Not that a loss is easy to take &045; ASU center Myles Howard didn’t like it a bit &045; but it’s still plenty early in the season.

&uot;Everything is a building process for the season,&uot; Howard said. &uot;We’re just trying to get better each game. We cut the lead (today), but we just didn’t finish the game. We played a lot better &045;defense, especially. Losing like that (on Tuesday) really makes you want to come out the next game and play hard. We still have to jell.&uot;

The Braves, quite honestly, had nowhere to go but up after that 99-59 loss at Texas A&M-Corpus; Christi, and they had to do it without last year’s leading scorer, Brian Jackson, who was out with a hip flexor suffered in practice on Friday.

They were down by 18 in the first half but cut it to eight and were making Tuesday seem like ages ago. The Braves, however, couldn’t continue it and finished the game with 24 turnovers and hit 18 of 32 shots from the free throw line.

&uot;We played without BJ, and that could have made a difference,&uot; Alcorn head coach Sam West said. &uot;We played Alcorn State basketball. We played the kind of basketball we wanted to play. We made our shots, got some rebounds and made some free throws. We just have to be more consistent in doing that.&uot;

The turnovers and missed free throws were their biggest nemeses over the course of the game Saturday, and the Lumberjacks (2-0) switched to a press in the second half. The Braves came out hot in the second half and start chopping away at a lead that was 18 points late in the first half.

DeAndre Jones hit one of two free throws with 12:16 left to cap an 11-8 edge &045; one where the Braves missed four free throws &045; that trimmed the lead to 50-42. Both teams exchanged buckets, and one from John Chandler with 9:58 left kept the deficit at eight, 56-48.

The Lumberjacks then answered with a basket from Taylor Moore and a 3-pointer from post man Antonio Burks to begin to turn the tide.

&uot;I felt like they were taking the battle to us,&uot; SFA head coach Danny Kaspar said. &uot;I wanted to counter-attack them with our press. I believe it knocked them off balance a little. We got a couple quick baskets off that, and that really helped our confidence. I felt like the fouls were called tighter in the second half than in the first half, but we have to adjust to that. That’s life on the road.&uot;

The 3-pointer opened things up a bit for the Lumberjacks, who were having trouble going inside in the second half up until that point. The Braves’ defense was taking that away, but the Lumberjacks got that big bucket and kept the lead at 13 for the next five minutes as two free throws from Jasen Gast &045; shooting for the injured B.J. Banks &045; with 5:37 left put the lead at 67-54.

Both Banks and Gast finished in double figures in scoring as did all five SFA starters.

&uot;We turned it over once or twice in their press, but that’s not what hurt us,&uot; West said. &uot;At the end we made some turnovers and didn’t shoot our free throws well, and that cost us. They just ran that man-to-man offense, and we did a good job. Just right at the end we didn’t do a good job of closing out and doing what we needed to.&uot;

Burks’ first 3-pointer was big enough, but after a basket from Dion Callans with 3:59 left trimmed the lead to 69-58, Burks hit another. He then followed it with a 2-pointer with 2:46 left to put the lead at a convincing 74-58.

Burks led the team with 17 points.

&uot;We’re disappointed we didn’t get more inside scoring,&uot; Kaspar said. &uot;We got very little inside scoring in the second half. Antonio’s stats really surprised me. I really didn’t think he played that well. He had 17 points, but most of them were in the last 10 minutes.&uot;

The Lumberjacks turned up the defensive pressure midway through the first half and muscled themselves to an 18-point lead. A three-point play from Taylor Moore with 4:55 left put SFA’s lead at 31-18, and Marcus Clark hit one of two free throws with 3:15 left after getting fouled following a steal to put the lead at 38-20.

A bucket from Josh Banks with 2:25 left put the lead at 42-24 and capped a 31-11 SFA scoring run before the Braves were able to bounce back. They finished the half on a 7-0 run, including a dunk from DeAndre Jones off a steal with 24 seconds left to cut it to 42-30.

Almaad Jackson hit one of two free throws with 10 seconds left to cut it to 42-31.

&uot;It’s just executing at the end,&uot; Howard said. &uot;They hit some shots. It’s only the second game of the season. Hopefully by the fifth or sixth game we’ll be ready.&uot;