NACOGDOCHES — Although the difference in the game was clear, Stephen F. Austin head coach Kyle Keller had a difficult time coming to grips with it.
On a good run in Southland Conference play with some clutch wins, the wheels came off in a rare home loss Saturday night.
Lamar outrebounded SFA 41-13 and limited SFA to 16 field goals in an 82-67 decision over the Lumberjacks at William R. Johnson Coliseum.
SFA (12-10, 5-5 in SLC) entered the contest winners of four of its last five league matches, including a two-point road decision over Houston Baptist in Houston Wednesday.
But playing with a short bench because of injuries and recent player defections, the Lumberjacks were outplayed badly in the rebounding department. SFA managed just two offensive rebounds in the 40 minutes.
Lamar's Christian Barrett had 12 rebounds, one fewer than the Lumberjacks' total. The Cardinals had nine players grab at least one rebound. SFA had four players with rebounds, highlighted by junior Kevon Harris and guard John Comeaux, who both had four.
Keller said he put bubbles on the rims in practices leading up to the game, a practice method that keeps the ball from going through the rim — thus creating a natural rebounding procedure.
"We practiced with bubbles all week long," the coach said. "Maybe we have to take the bubbles off. It didn't register to the game."
Lamar (12-12, 5-6) didn't look like a middle-of-the-pack league team. The Cardinals finished with 31 field goals, including 10 3-pointers.
Behind from the start, SFA was within five points with 7:23 left at 63-58 before Lamar's Davion Buster knocked down a 3-pointer to start a run that stretched the lead to 15 at the end.
"They lined up and did everything that we've worked on," Keller said. "Rebounding is in your heart. You either have it or you don't. Lamar had a great interest in winning — greater than ours."
Harris led the Lumberjacks with 25 points, including a 14-of-16 performance from the free throw line. Senior guard Shannon Bogues added 19 points behind an 8-of-11 showing from the free throw line.
But after those two, the scoring was limited. Senior Davonte Fitzgerald put in nine and junior Nathan Bain added seven. The team came up with seven more points from three different players.
SFA hit seven 3-pointers and was 28-of-35 from the free throw line, assets that kept the game interesting until Lamar's final run.
Lamar was paced by guard Nick Garth's 23 points and Jordan Hunter, who added 20 points. Barrett put in 14 points to go along with his 12 boards.
Hunter (4-of-8) and Garth (3-of-6) combined to go 7-of-14 from three-point distance.
SFA is playing without 6-8 post TJ Holyfield, who suffered a shoulder injury before the season. The team also had two players recently leave the team, including point guard Aaron Augustin, who was one of the top assists and steals guard in the league.
"We don't have the roster that we had at the beginning of the year," Keller said. "But I'm not going to make excuses. We have to do better."
Saturday's loss is the second home league setback of the season. Since the first — a loss to Northwestern State on Jan. 12 — the team was 4-2, with the wins coming by 3, 1, 6 and 2 points.
"Our margin of error is tight," Keller said. "I thought we'd play well."