Moody Magic, a term coined by the Abilene Christian faithful to describe a supposed mystical aura around Moody Coliseum that gives the Wildcats a winning edge, is something the Stephen F. Austin men's basketball team fell victim to a season ago.
Wednesday night, the 'Jacks cast a spell of their own - one of the defensive variety - to make sure their intrastate rivals wouldn't obtain a second-straight win in the series.
Behind a game-high 23 points from sophomore Kevon Harris as well as a 26-of–36 performance at the free throw stripe, the 'Jacks erased a 10-point halftime deficit and claimed a 76-66 triumph over Abilene Christian Wednesday night.
Harris' 23 points were the exact same number of points Abilene Christian netted in the final half, too. After shooting an impressive 61.9-percent (13-of-21) through the first frame, the Wildcats were utterly shot down by the 'Jacks' renewed defensive effort and sputtered along at a 27.3-percent (6-of-22) efficiency rate in that span.
That misfortune on offense never seeped over to the 'Jacks' side of the court. The visitors knocked down 44-percent (11-of-25) of their second-half shots and thrived at the foul stripe, too, by going 20-of-25 (80-percent) from that distance during the frame.
In addition to Harris, Leon Gilmore III and Ivan Canete also enjoyed double-digit scoring efforts in the win. The former posted 16 points and went 6-of-10 from the foul line while the latter chipped in on 13 on 4-of-12 shooting from the field and a 5-of-5 showing from the free throw stripe.
It was on the strength of Harris' offense in which the 'Jacks built up an early lead. The sophomore scored or assisted on 15 of SFA's first 27 points of the game and three-point plays by Canete and Gilmore III helped SFA increase its lead to 27-15 with 10:48 to go in the frame.
Seemingly in control of things, the 'Jacks misplaced that control in a big way through the remainder of the half. During the final 10:32 of the stanza, the Wildcats took off on a 28-6 run helmed almost entirely by Tevin Foster. The 'Jacks' only two field goals came on layups from Canete and Holyfield while Foster pumped in 14 of his 16 first-half points including all three of his long-range hits through the final portion of the frame.
Gilmore III converted one of his two free throw tries to end the frame, cutting the Wildcats' lead to 43-33 at the break but the damage had already been done by an ACU squad which shot .619/.600/.733 in the opening 20 minutes of action.
Aside from Harris, who amassed 13 on 5-of-7 shooting prior to the blare of the halftime horn, no other SFA player scored more than seven. Additionally, the remainder of the 'Jacks converted only seven of their 27 tries from the field - a success rate of just 25.9-percent.
The 'Jacks' comeback bid began almost immediately once the second half started as Harris went to the line and converted a pair of shots just 33 seconds into the frame. Those free throw makes signaled the start of a 25-9 SFA run that spanned the first 11:12 of the second half and turned a 10-point deficit into a six-point lead for the visitors.
Through that stretch, Abilene Christian hit only two field goals - a pair of wide-open layups by B.J. Maxwell 25 seconds apart - and eight of the 'Jacks' points came from the foul line. The remainder of the points came from field goal makes by Ty Charles, Canete, Gilmore III and Harris.
Offensively, it was Gilmore III and Harris who shouldered most of the load through the second half, putting in 10 points apiece. TJ Holyfield, however, handed SFA the lead for good by swishing two free throws at the 10:28 mark of the frame which made matters 53-52 in favor of the visitors.
Shannon Bogues effectively ended the game by driving baseline and hammering down a two-handed baseline dunk with 2:39 left. That jam pushed the 'Jacks' edge to 12, 73-61, and helped SFA put things on cruise control the rest of the way.
Tevin Foster was held to just four points in the second half to finish with 20 for Abilene Christian. Jaren Lewis and Payten Ricks added 13 and 11 respectively but that trio also combined for 12 of the Wildcats' 22 turnovers in the game.
Once the horn sounded inside Moody Coliseum, it signaled the beginning of a one-week break between games for the 'Jacks. SFA's next tilt, however, is another long road trip in which the team heads to Conway, Ark., to do battle with Central Arkansas and prolific scoring machine Jordan Howard at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 24.
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