The Port Arthur News
BEAUMONT — It’s a good thing Lamar’s basketball team doesn’t play another game in the Montagne Center until March 3. Maybe by then the rotten-egg odor from Wednesday night’s 62-52 loss to Stephen F. Austin will have dissipated.
The senior-laden Cardinals, with a chance to pull within one game of Southland Conference East Division leader McNeese State, instead took a giant step back toward the mediocrity of past years with a dismal performance at both ends of the floor. Even worse, they looked flat and unemotional in what could have been a statement game.
For all practical purposes, this one was decided during an 11:24 span of the first half that saw Lamar miss 18 straight shots while SFA turned a 7-6 deficit into a 23-10 lead. At that point, the hapless, helpless Cardinals had been outscored 14-0 in the paint, as the Lumberjacks also took advantage of horrid interior defense.
By halftime, down just 29-20, Lamar was shooting 21.2 percent (7-of-33), 25 percent on treys (1-of-4) and 62.5 at the foul line (5-of-8). By game’s end, they were at 28.8 percent (19-of-66), 7.7 percent (1-of-13) and 59.1 (13-of-22).
The main culprits were the team’s two-leading scorers — Mike James (6-of-22) and Anthony Miles (2-of-11). Another senior, Charlie Harper, missed all eight of his shots. The only player who didn’t embarrass himself was senior Devon Lamb, who had 15 rebounds to go with seven points. Junior Stan Brown added 10 points but got chewed up on the defensive end.
“Individually, that might have been the worst game I’ve ever played,” said James. “I was missing shots I normally make but I knew I had to stay aggressive.”
The loss dropped Lamar to 8-5 in league play and 17-11 overall. SFA improved to 9-4 and 16-11. The results leave the Cardinals two back of McNeese State in the East and tied for fourth overall with Texas-San Antonio. But, with two road games coming up, the situation is likely to get worse for the Cardinals.
LU coach Pat Knight was predictably livid about his team’s performance. After throwing James out of the media interview room, he went on a 10-minute rant that’s become a familiar theme.
“We’ve got the worst group of seniors I’ve ever been associated with,” said Knight. “Their mentality is awful. Their attitude is awful. To come out in a game like this with no emotion, to just be flat, is terrible. When seniors don’t play like seniors you get beat.
“We’ve had problems with these guys off the court, on the court, in the classroom, with drugs, being late for stuff. You can’t do all that BS and expect to win games. If people have a problem with me being so harsh about it, I don’t care. I came here to clean something up and that’s the bottom line.”
Upon further review, Knight game Lamb a pass on blanket criticism of the seniors.
“Lamb is probably the one kid I shouldn’t be upset with,” he said. “He brings it every night. He’s the one kid I need to back off of. If I had five Lambs, we would be having these discussions. We just gotta have a better situation from Miles and James.”
Some credit does need to be directed toward Stephen F. Austin. Former LU assistant Danny Kaspar’s Lumberjacks are sixth in the nation in scoring defense for a season. They didn’t allow the Cardinals many good looks, especially James and Brandon Davis.
Davis, who scored only six points, couldn’t even get a three-point shot airborne until five minutes deep in the second half. James, meanwhile, was 0-for-7 at the half and 4 of 20 until he got two gimmes in the final minute. Two of his other makes were dunks after steals.
While Lamar was stuck in the mud, SFA was shooting 54.3 percent (25-of-46) and beating the Cardinals on the boards, 42-35. The Lumberjacks got 20 points from guard Antonio Bostic and 14 from 6-7 Jereal Scott, who turned Brown and Osas Ebomwonyi every way but loose around the basket.
Because Lamar shot so poorly, it didn’t make any difference that it got up 20 more field goal attempts and forced 18 turnovers while committing only seven. The Cardinals did manage to get within six points early in the second half, but there was never a feeling they could come all the way back.
Where this team goes from here, with games at Sam Houston Saturday and Texas State next Wednesday, before closing the regular season at home against McNeese, is anybody’s guess. Knight, for one, isn’t overly optimistic.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if they lose the rest of them,” he said. “I feel sorry for the fans. I apologize to the fans. I feel sorry for the school. These kids are stealing money by being on scholarship with their approach to things. It’s just a disgrace to put on a performance like that. We have a bunch of tin men out there. They have no heart.”