Cardinals get going too late again

Published 5:26 pm Sunday, November 29, 2015

BEAUMONT — Youth and inexperience are common themes within Lamar men’s basketball.

Slow starts are getting to be.

“We still have to learn if the game starts at 7, we have to come out and play at 7,” Lamar coach Tic Price said.

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Tipoff was actually at 2 p.m., and the Cardinals started a little too leisurely on a Sunday afternoon.

The Cardinals fell into a double-digit hole in the first half for the second straight game and ran out of fuel trying to pull out a win as California-Riverside got 25 points from Jaylen Bland in a 74-69 victory Sunday. It was Lamar’s first home game since the season opener against Austin College 16 days earlier.

“We stuck to the game plan,” said Bland, who went 8 for 20 from the field. “We knew they were a fast-paced team, and we just had to slow them down in transition, which we did in the first half, and it worked out well for us.”

UC Riverside (4-2) of the Big West Conference shot 50 percent (16 of 32) from the floor and led by as many as 20 points, holding onto a 43-29 halftime advantage. Bland knocked down three of his four three-point baskets in the half, as the Highlanders connected on 7 of 14 for the period and 9 of 23 for the game.

“We’re a young team,” Lamar freshman Dorian Chatman said after scoring 11 points. “We’re still getting adjusted to the college speed, and you can tell as it goes on we’re getting better, but mainly our main focus is coming out and executing the game plan and getting stronger mentally to start playing whenever the tipoff starts.”

The pace of the game was similar to Lamar’s previous outing, an 82-74 loss at Rice on Wednesday in which the Owls shot better than 50 percent from the floor.

The Cardinals (2-4) turned to Chatman in the low post in an effort to turn the game around. The recent Port Arthur Memorial graduate, who was scoreless in the first half, grinded out the first six points of the second half to pull LU within 43-37.

“It wasn’t something we drew up,” Chatman said. “They just called the play and I took advantage of the mismatch or the opportunity that was given to me.”

That was part of a 22-6 run that culminated in a Kevin Booze layup to give Lamar a 51-49 lead with 8:39 remaining, its first of the game. Lamar led one other time, 53-51.

But Steven Jones scored back-to-back buckets and Bland canned his fourth trey of the game to give UC Riverside the 58-53 edge.

Freshman Josh Nzeakor, who had a team-high 16 points and five rebounds, completed a three-point play with 2:38 remaining to even the game at 64. Secean Johnson, though, scored the Highlanders’ next four points and, after a Nick Garth field goal, Jones floated behind the Cardinal defense for a two-hand jam to make it 70-65 with 51 seconds left. Lamar never got within three points from there, and UC Riverside made 4 of 6 free throws in the final 36 seconds to escape.

“It took a lot out of us to dig ourselves out of the hole we put ourselves in,” Price said.

Bland had eight rebounds to go with his game high in points, and Malik Thames netted 13 points and totaled three assists for the Highlanders. Garth, another freshman, also totaled 11 points for Lamar.

UC Riverside shot 45 percent (27 of 60) for the game to Lamar’s 36.8 percent (22 of 60), but the Cardinals had a 40-35 rebounding edge.

Lamar hosts Texas-Rio Grande Valley at 7 p.m. Wednesday for the second of a three-game home stand.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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