UNO rolls over Stephen F. Austin to extend Southland lead to two games

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Nate Frye -- Photo by Clem Barbazon

Nate Frye (#3) scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half of UNO’s 82-65 victory over Stephen F. Austin in Lakefront Arena (Photo by Clem Barbazon).

BOX SCORE

Frye, Thomas score 18 each as Privateers win fifth straight and improve to 17-9 overall, 12-3 in conference play

NEW ORLEANS – While Mardi Gras season is in full swing in the Crescent City and surrounding areas, it was a parade of points on Thursday night in Lakefront Arena as the University of New Orleans men’s basketball team rolled past four-time defending Southland Conference champion Stephen F. Austin, 84-61.

UNO trailed 4-2 early on, but rattle off 10 unanswered points and never trailed the rest of the way. The Privateers took a 41-21 lead into the break at halftime and led by as many as 32 at 57-25 with 15:54 to play in regulation. The Lumberjacks actually outscored the home team 40-25 the rest of the way, but the early advantage proved to be way more than Stephen F. Austin could overcome.

The win was the fifth in a row for the Privateers, who improve to 17-9 on the year and 12-3 in SLC action. Stephen F. Austin saw its winning streak halted at four as the Lumberjacks fall to 15-12 overall and 10-5 in league play. In addition, the victory gave New Orleans a two-game cushion in the league standings with three games left on the regular-season schedule and the Privateers need just one win the rest of the way to clinch at least a share of the conference crown. The program’s last title came in 1997 when UNO earned a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship.

“It was incredible,” UNO head coach Mark Slessinger said. “We’re so humbled by the amount of people who came out to support us tonight. There’s so much stuff going on in our great city with the Pelicans playing and with parades going on. With all that taking place, it was great to have so many people out here tonight. It was very humbling and very supportive.

“Our guys were very prepared. My hat goes off to my staff. They did a phenomenal job getting these guys ready. The game plan that we had was great, the guys executed it and they played so hard and so unselfishly tonight. I’m so blessed and so happy for them that they had such a great night.”

As a team, New Orleans shot 56.5 percent from the field (26-of-44), had an assist on 16 of its 26 baskets and converted on 28 of its 38 free throw opportunities. The Privateers were out-rebounded 31-26, but forced 21 SFA turnovers and turned those miscues into 33 points.

The senior tandem of guard Nate Frye and forward Erik Thomas led four Privateers in double figures offensively with 18 points each. Sixteen of Frye’s points came in the first half and he was able to get to the free throw line with dribble penetration to finish the game 12-of-13 from the stripe. He also led the team with four steals. Thomas, meanwhile, was 7-of-10 from the field and a perfect 4-of-4 from the free throw line to go with a team-leading six assists.

Senior guard Christavious Gill was next for UNO with 13 points and junior swing man Michael Zeno came off the bench to add 12. Junior forward Travin Thibodeaux paced the Privateers with nine rebounds while fellow junior forward Makur Puou had two of the team’s four blocked shots.

“All three of the guys who have been with us all four years are so special,” Slessinger said. “Then you add Erik into it and that takes us over the top. Nate has worked so hard this year to prepare for this moment. I’m so happy for him that he played so well tonight. He’s capable of that any night. He gives up a lot of good shots to give his teammates great shots. He so unselfish and he’s been such a catalyst for us off the bench. He’s really been a difference for us in this championship run that we’re on. Tonight was a great affirmation for him.”

Down by two three-plus minutes into the contest, Thomas sparked the game-changing run with a layup and junior guard Jorge Rosa followed with a 3-pointer. From there, Frye connected on a pair of free throws and converted a three-point play on the Privateers’ next possession to set the tempo for the rest of the game.

The two teams traded points over the next few minutes, and with the score 28-18 in favor of the home team, New Orleans closed out the half on a 13-3 run and opened the second stanza with 10 unanswered points to take a commanding 51-21 advantage 2:06 into the frame. After the Privateers went ahead by 32 two minutes later, the Lumberjacks began chipping away at the lead as the game progressed.

Stephen F. Austin cut the UNO advantage to 21 at 76-55 with 4:47 to go and actually scored seven of the game’s nine points. The contest, however, had long since been decided and the Privateers send the vocal crowd home happy.

“[SFA has] a great coaching staff,” Slessinger added. “I’ve known them the entire time I’ve been in the coaching business and I have a ton of respect for them. They’re very good at what they do and they have a good team. They’ve got players that have won championships and have won a lot of games. I’m very happy that we won the game, because it was the next game, and I’ll be really happy if we can be lucky enough to win again on Saturday.”

T.J. Holyfield and Kevon Harris led the Lumberjacks with 13 points apiece while Isaiah Traylor added 11. Holyfield paced the squad with eight rebounds and had the team’s lone block. Aaron Augustin led Stephen F. Austin with five assists and Dallas Cameron tallied a team-best two steals.

The Privateers return to action on Saturday, Feb. 25, when they travel to Natchitoches, La., to take on Northwestern State. From there, UNO will close out the home portion of the 2016-17 schedule on March 2 against Southeastern Louisiana before wrapping up the regular season on March 4 at Nicholls.

For tickets to Privateers’ game against Southeastern Louisiana, as well as future New Orleans Athletics events, contact the UNO Athletics Ticket Office over the phone at (504) 280-GAME (4263) or via the Internet by clicking HERE.

COACH SLESSINGER’S QUOTES FOLLOWING THURSDAY’S 82-65 WIN OVER STEPHEN F. AUSTIN

Overall thoughts on the game
“It was incredible. We’re so humbled by the amount of people who came out to support us tonight. There’s so much stuff going on in our great city with the Pelicans playing and with parades going on. With all that taking place, it was great to have so many people our there tonight. It was very humbling and very supportive.”

On the way his team played
“Our guys were very prepared. My hat goes off to my staff. They did a phenomenal job getting these guys ready. The game plan that we had was great, the guys executed it and they played so hard and so unselfishly tonight. I’m so blessed and so happy for them that they had such a great night.”

On if the win is sweeter after never beating the Lumberjacks in four previous meetings
“They’ve got a great coaching staff. I’ve known them the entire time I’ve been in the coaching business and I have a ton of respect for them. They’re very good at what they do and they have a good team. They’ve got players that have won championships and have won a lot of games. I’m very happy that we won the game, because it was the next game, and I’ll be really happy if we can be lucky enough to win again on Saturday.”

On the upcoming game at Northwestern State
“It’s my former place of employment. It’s a place I was at for 11 years. It’s a hard place to win and we’ll be going against a guy in Mike McConathy who is the reason for where I am today because he gave me an opportunity. He’s Louisiana’s all-time college wins coach. It’s going to be a big night and a hard game for us.”

On the performance of Nate Frye off the bench
“All three of the guys who have been with us all four years are so special. Then you add Erik into it and that takes us over the top. Nate has worked so hard this year to prepare for this moment. I’m so happy for him that he played so well tonight. He’s capable of that any night. He gives up a lot of good shots to give his teammates great shots. He so unselfish and he’s been such a catalyst for us off the bench. He’s really been a difference for us in this championship run that we’re on. Tonight was a great affirmation for him.”

On being one win away from clinching at least a share of the 2016-17 Southland Conference championship
“It’s humbling, to say the least. To think of where we were when we were lucky enough to get this job. We’ve been blessed beyond what we probably deserve. It’s an amazing opportunity for our student-athletes to come and be a part of this. It will be a lifetime memory for them, as well as our University, the faculty and staff – which has worked so hard to make this a top research university – and all of our alumni that have been hungry for good news and hungry for a winner. We’ve been so lucky and humbled to give one to them and our city. I love this city as much as anybody. It means so much to me to do this here and to be a part of the fabric of this community.”

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Richie Weaver

Richie Weaver

Director of Athletic Media Relations, University of New Orleans

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