League-leading HBU visits Lamar with trip to SFA near

Published 2:53 pm Friday, January 22, 2016

The Lamar Cardinals are in need of healing, days after being thrashed by 28 points at Southeastern Louisiana.

But how do they find what the doctor ordered when Southland Conference leader Houston Baptist visits Beaumont on Saturday, with a road trip to Stephen F. Austin to follow? They just have to win.

“To win Saturday would give us a psychological boost [for the SFA game], and it would give us mental health after coming off that loss at Southeastern,” Lamar coach Tic Price said.

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That’s where the Cardinals (10-8, 2-4 Southland) are hurting.

The 98-70 defeat in Hammond, Louisiana, on Monday is their fourth in the last five games, and now they’re sitting seventh in league standings with 12 games to go. To have a chance to beat the Huskies (11-7, 6-0), Lamar will need to organize a better start than it has in recent games.

“We just have to come out more aggressive and play from start to finish that way,” Price said. “It was a slow start [Monday], but we just didn’t play defense, to be honest with you. You can’t beat teams on the road and you give up 98 points. I’m not happy about the team’s defensive discipline and the willingness to stop people. When we give up 98 points, it suggests to me we’re trying to outscore people and not stop people.”

Southeastern’s point total was the most Lamar allowed this season and the third time in four games it gave up 90 or more points. The Cardinals, however, lead the Southland in rebounding at 40 per game (15.9 on offense).

Houston Baptist, which went 6-25 two seasons ago, is one win away from matching last season’s win total. Redshirt senior guard Anthony Odunsi averages 16.9 points per game, fourth in the Southland, to lead the Huskies’ surge.

“They were good a year ago,” Price said. “I tell people from my experience in the Southland Conference, when they become a veteran team, they’re going to be solid. They play in a system and do very well in that system, and they’re a very solid basketball team. They have all those pieces and they’ve done well putting the pieces together.”

Price said the Huskies play with an inside-out presence that can be problematic for the Cardinals if they’re not willing to be physical.

Lamar has its scoring threat as well with freshman guard Nick Garth (14.8 points per game), but he was held to nine points at Southeastern, after tallying a season-high 25 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and 19 against Northwestern State. He is the only Cardinal averaging double-digit points, with Kevin Booze (9.8), Dontavious Sears (9.78) and Lincoln Davis (9.6) coming close.

Another freshman, forward Josh Nzeakor, has given the Cards energy off the bench with double digits in his last three games. He had just one (16 vs. California-Riverside) prior.

“They’re still trying to find their way. Nick, Dorian [Chatman] and Josh, those guys will be special players in the Southland Conference for years to come. Other teams are treating them like little brothers right now, but they’re going to be special. They have accepted their role and done a good job trying to play that role.”



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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