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NCAA Basketball March MadnessUCLA Bruins

Stephen F. Austin Should Have Beaten UCLA in 2014 NCAA Tournament

SFA 2014 NCAA Tournament loss to UCLA

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

For four months, the SFA Lumberjacks didn’t experience a loss. That should not have changed on Sunday night during their Round of 32 game against UCLA in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, but it did. For the first time since Thanksgiving, SFA was lethargic on defense — the opposite of their usual hustling style from the entire season — and essentially intimidated by the brightness of the national spotlight. Sure, the Bruins were longer and more athletic than the Jacks, but the underdogs got away from what made them so successful all year long and now their Cinderella run is over at least one game too early.

Is UCLA an overall better team? Yes, but the Bruins didn’t play against the real SFA team, especially in the second half. The team that took the court in purple uniforms wasn’t the same team that upset VCU in the “second round” two days earlier; it was a team that played timidly on both ends of the floor, but especially on defense.

Now, can SFA be blamed for being a bit intimidated by a stage it had never before experienced? Not really, but the players who shed tears at the end of the game had good reason to because they didn’t leave it all on the court and many of them will regret it for a long time. Everyone in the state of Texas is extremely proud of this team for making it as far as it did, but one more upset would have truly made it a Sweet Cinderella run for the Jacks.

SFA coach Brad Underwood knew his team didn’t play its best game and that’s why he was so animated during timeouts, but none of his players responded. Jacob Parker, the team’s leading scorer and overall playmaker, didn’t hit shots from anywhere, which happens, even to the best of players, but none of his teammates took the opportunity to step up. In addition, every single one of the Jacks’ post defenders just watched UCLA’s Jordan Adams just waltz to the basket time and again. None of them even thought to contend the shot, which resulted in easy hoop after easy hoop for the Bruins. My old coach used to say if you want to watch the game, buy a ticket, and that applied to SFA’s defense in this game.

Again, no one expected the Lumberjacks to make it this far and they are to be commended for a fantastic season, but they let a golden opportunity to knock off a higher-seeded, historically-successful team because of stage fright. You can’t think about “what if?” because it’s pointless and it will drive you crazy, but the Jacks would play the Bruins a lot closer if they squared off again tomorrow and they know it. The problem is they won’t get that chance to go try on glass slippers again until next year. But that’s the name of the game: Madness.

Jeric Griffin is the General Manager for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @JericGriffin, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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