Lamar visits 1-11 Central Arkansas
Published 11:39 pm Friday, January 8, 2016
Tic Price can relate to Russ Pennell in rebuilding a basketball program. Price just might not have felt the pain Pennell is going through.
“He’s a fine basketball coach,” Price, Lamar’s head coach, said of the second-year Central Arkansas leader. “He took over a program about in the same shape as ours [at the end of the 2013-14 season]. Unfortunately, he lost probably more players than we did. He gutted the entire program and started from scratch.
Pennell, who was interim head coach at Arizona in 2008-09 and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury coach in 2013, has taken on the huge challenge of rebuilding a Bears program that last posted a winning record in the 2005-06 season, their next-to-last in Division II.
So far, the rebuilding process has not been quick. UCA is 3-38 under his watch, but Pennell became the first permanent head coach since former Arkansas and NBA star Corliss Williamson left the post for a job with the Sacramento Kings before the 2013-14 season.
Pennell has loaded his roster with new faces, including seven current sophomores. He also has one freshman, three juniors, two seniors and graduate student.
“We started from scratch, too,” said Price, who is 25-24 in his second full season in Beaumont. “Our rebuilding period has been a little bit better. Ours has been on a more of a fast track than [Pennell’s]. But as a coach, he’s a very respected coach. They’ve got to continue to work.”
Central Arkansas has also taken on a tough nonconference schedule, beating Texas-San Antonio 73-54 but coming close to wins over Rutgers (87-84) and currently 13-1 Little Rock (79-73). They also got punished by the likes of now-No. 2 Oklahoma (111-68) and Pittsburgh (100-47).
Last Saturday, the Bears (1-11, 0-2) came close to their first Southland win of the season, dropping a 62-61 home heartbreaker to Abilene Christian. They lost 94-82 at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Tuesday.
Which makes them hungrier for a win, Price said.
The Cardinals (9-5, 1-1 Southland) will be hungry just to bounce back in the win column following Monday’s 68-64 home loss to New Orleans. Lamar has to sharpen its game after committing 28 turnovers in the game.
“Some of it is a lack of concentration,” Price said. “We got a little bit impatient and lost our composure. All that happens with a young team. A veteran team, after a turnover and two, they play through it and continue to execute their offense. But, again, it’s still a learning curve. We lost to a good team, but we show an ability to bounce back. I don’t get too concerned. That’s an area I know we can clean up.”
Sophomore guard Kevin Booze echoed Price’s sentiments about the concentration and offered a solution.
“We get back in the gym and we work,” he said.
Price also wants the Cardinals to fight today on the road.
“The most dangerous animal is one who’s backed into a corner,” Price said of the Bears. “They’re backed into a corner. They’re going to come out fighting. We’ve got to be able to fight back.”