The Port Arthur News
BEAUMONT — It was one of those good news, bad news nights for the Lamar University basketball team.
The good news was that with a 70-54 victory over woeful Southeastern Louisiana (3-9, 9-15) the Cardinals (8-4, 17-9) clinched their first trip to the Southland Conference post-season tournament in four years. The bad news was that if they play in the tournament the way they played against Southeastern Louisiana they won’t be around long.
“We won but it doesn’t feel much like we won,” acknowledged Cardinal coach Pat Knight.
Knight, though, did try to put a positive spin on the fact that the Cardinals have exceeded the expectations that he sensed when taking the reins of the LU progam last spring.
“We’ve got 17 wins, 8 in the league. No one thought that was going to happen. If they say they did, they are lying. I know what people were saying when I took the job. So I’ve got to be happy with what we have accomplished. It’s good for these kids.”
Lamar, before a crowd listed at 2,577, came out smoking Wednesday night. The Cardinals made six of their first seven shots to jump to jump out 13-4 in the game’s first four minutes, stretched the lead to 18 points (29-11), then pretty much shut it down.
“We just relax and get casual with a lead,” Knight said. “You have to have a killer instinct, but we relax and get casual. We had them on the ropes. You would like to increase a big lead like we had into the 20s and 30s but we just don’t have that mentality.”
Most noteworthy aspect of the LU victory was Devon Lamb’s fifth consecutive double-double and ninth of the season. Lamb, who never relaxes, scored 11 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Anthony Miles led the Cardinals with 18 points, followed closely by Mike James with 17. Charlie Harper had his best statistical game since coming back from suspension with 11 pont and four rebounds.
The one thing the Cardinals did reasonably well was shoot the ball. They finished at 48.3 percent on 28-of-58. But they were only 11-of-20 at the foul line, got beat on the boards 37-36 and were outscored in the paint, 32-24.
A tipoff on how poorly Lamar ran its offense can be gleaned from the fact that there were only 10 assists on 28 field goals.
“We had too many mental mistakes,” said James. “We didn’t really go through out offense. We got too complacent at times and didn’t really push. But in spurts we played well.”
“We have to move the ball more, have to share the ball more on offense,” said Miles. “We have to cut more. Like Mike said, there were too many mental mistakes. It’s crunch time coming up now. We have to clean it up.”
Lamar, after leading 29-11, saw the Lions close out the first half on a 14-5 run to pull within 34-25 at the break. Southeastern would get a close as seven points, but Lamb helped the Cardinals get some breathing room by twice scoring on putbacks.
The Cardinals biggest lead over the team they beat 83-59 two weeks ago in Hammond was 64-43.
Next up for LU is a rare February non-conference game. The Cardinals journey to the East Coast for a Saturday game in the BracketBuster lineup against Colonial Athletic Association front runner George Mason. The Patriots are 22-6 and coming off a one-point victory Tuesday night against Virginia Commonwealth.
“I’m against this, but I understand why they do it,” said Knight. “It will be some good exposure and I’m glad it’s against somebody like George Mason. I wanted us to get them or Murray State or Butler. We’ll deal with it and try to have some fun with it. But a game like this disrupts the flow of your conference play.”
When Lamar returns to SLC play next Wednesday in Beaumont, it will be a very important game against Stephen F. Austin. The Cardinals and Lumberjacks are currently tied for the No. 3 seed in the tournament. Getting the No. 3 seed would put Lamar in the bracket opposite 12-0 Texas-Arlington.