, Port Arthur, Texas

March 8, 2014

SLU exposes Lamar's warts in 71-62 finale

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

BEAUMONT — With one lengthy answer to a fairly innocuous question in the aftermath of Southeastern Louisiana’s 71-62 victory over Lamar Saturday night, Cardinal interim coach Tic Price innocently spilled the beans on why it’s almost unconscionable that the school will be paying Pat Knight over $400,000 to leave town two years before his contract expires.

    Without actually saying it, Price left little doubt Knight’s lazy and misguided recruiting has left a monumental challenge for his successor.

    The question was, “Tic, now that you’ve been with this team for five games, what is the biggest need for  next year to have a chance to win?

    “I think we need to get longer, athletic guys,” he began. “I’d like to see us have  the opportunity to get a couple of shooters, wing guys — 6-4 to 6-6 small forwards who are able to shoot, with some athleticism, with some length. I’d like to have more length inside, maybe a shot blocker or two. People drive it because they know we don’t have a human eraser back there.

    “Those are probably the three or four positions we feel like we need to recruit to. I think we got some players but I think we got to fill spots and those are four areas we need. Shooters, a couple of post guys and maybe a backup point guard.”

    Assuming Price becomes the new head coach, which is probable after his solid stint in the interim role, there’s only one problem with his wish list. After two years of Knight recruiting mistakes, which led to a 7-54 record, there is just one scholarship to offer at this point in time. Only way that changes is if certain players recognize they are in over their head and leave for lower level programs.

    All of Lamar’s vulnerabilities from Knight’s recruiting blunders were on full display Saturday night, and Southeastern Louisiana took full advantage. The Lions used a 2-3 zone to expose Lamar’s lack of a single Division 1 level outside shooter. In the second half, they took the ball hard to the basket to feast on the Cardinals lacking enough athleticism to stop dribble penetration.

    You could probably find five guys on a playground in Port Arthur who could shoot better over a zone than Lamar. Underscoring why they rank 11th in the Southland Conference in field goal percentage and 12th in three-point accuracy, the Cardinals were 19-of-58 overall (32.8 percent) and 4-of-21 (19.0 percent) on treys. They missed their first seven shots in the opening period and their first nine in the second half.

    It was so ugly by halftime, with Lamar shooting 7-for-29 and 2-of-14 beyond the arc, that some fans headed for the exits.

    Take away senior Amos Wilson’s 6-of-12 effort on the inside, and the numbers look even worse. The 6-5 Wilson, to his credit, was a relentless warrior if undersized warrior around the basket, finishing off his Cardinal career with a 19 point, 10 rebound double-double.

    Lamar’s inadequacy at being athletic enough able to deal with dribble penetration was magnified by the fact Southeastern cashed six “and ones” in the second half. For those not into basketball lingo, that’s a half dozen baskets where a player was fouled and converted the free throw. It would have been seven, but the Lions Onochie Ochie missed his foul shot.

    Southeastern, which clobbered Lamar 91-65 when Knight was still the Cardinal coach, led from the opening basket of the game. The closest LU ever got was 27-26 with 18:41 left. Southeastern scored  the next four points and was in control the rest of the way.

    Those familiar with this team’s glaring shortcomings would need to look at only one stat to know why the game evolved the way it did. The Cardinals, who scored 33 points off 20 New Orleans turnovers in a Thursday night victory, managed just eight points on 12 Lions turnovers.

    Unable to get transition baskets created by defensive pressure, and forced to heave up bricks over the zone, it was pretty much a hopeless case. After getting 12 fast break points in the UNO game, the Cardinals got none against the Lions.

    “Probably the most disappointing part of this game was we didn’t score any fast break points,” Price said. “Their zone had a lot to do with it. It slowed us down. Then, I don’t know how many ‘and ones’ we gave them in the second half. Those were two areas that hurt.

    “The third area, we were not able to make jump shots, especially on the perimeter. But the effort was still there. They still had fight in them. They did not quit. Amos Wilson ended his career with a double-double. He’s a quiet leader who leads by example. We’ll miss him.”

    Wilson, meanwhile, offered his endorsement for Price to become the next head coach.

    “People tell me they see a difference in the team,” he said. “I see it too. I thought he did a pretty good job. I’d like to be around another year.”

    So the Knight era officially ends with a season that saw Lamar go 3-15 in Southland Conference play, 4-26 overall and 2-11 in the Montange Center. That follows a season when the Cardinals were 1-17, 3-28 and 1-10.