Cards meet Cards today

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 6, 2016

Lamar sports information

BEAUMONT – The Lamar men’s basketball team will look to put an end to a five-game skid today when Incarnate Word comes to town.

The Cardinals (10-12, 2-8 Southland Conference) will try to fight their way out of a corner as they enter the week 12th in the Southland standings, just a game up on Nicholls State in the win column. Although ineligible for the conference tournament, the Cardinals next opponent – Incarnate Word (11-8, 6-2 SLC) – is fourth overall.

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Beaumont’s version of the Cardinals appeared to have snapped its five-game skid in impressive fashion Monday night against Sam Houston State. After falling behind by 22 points in the second, the Cardinals just missed one of the biggest comebacks in school history when they pulled to within one with seconds remaining. Trailing by three, LU got the ball back with seven seconds but watched as sophomore Kevin Booze’s three hit off the front of the rim.

The setback forces Big Red to put another heartbreaker in the rearview mirror and get ready for its next opponent. That next opponent comes to the Golden Triangle riding a high, having won consecutive games and six of their last seven. UIW recorded a five-point win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to hand the formerly undefeated Islanders their second straight league loss.

If the LU Cardinals have a chance at beating their nickname counterparts, they need to shore up two areas – getting out of the gate quickly and cutting down on turnovers. Big Red has made a habit out of falling behind by double digits in the opening half of games this season, aided by their inability to value the basketball in the opening 20 minutes (LU gave up 21 first-half points on 12 turnovers against ACU, but settled down in the second with only five turnovers).

Despite the struggles LU has faced in the opening half, the Cardinals have not allowed it to affect them in the second half. In fact, LU has been a stronger team in the second half outscoring their opponents in the final 20 minutes 14 times this season. Against Sam Houston State, LU dialed up the defensive intensity forcing the Bearkats into 12 second half turnovers which led to 17 points, and the Cards outscored their opponent by 10 in the second half.

Big Red is being led by the Southland’s second-leading freshman scorer in Nick Garth. Averaging 14.5 points per game, Garth has been the team’s top scorer all season, and enters the 23rd game of the season with an opportunity to do something that has rarely been seen by LU fans. Although he got the start in the team’s last outing, Garth (who has only started three games this season) has a chance at being just the third Cardinal to lead the team in scoring despite coming off the bench, and the just the second freshman to do it. The last time that happened in Beaumont, Joey Ray (2000-01) averaged 11.3 per game, while Keith Veney averaged nearly 17 per game in 1992-93.

UIW is led by four players who average in double figures, including two averaging nearly 15 per game. Kyle Hittle leads the squad at 14.9, while Derail Green is averaging 14.5 per game.

Today’s game will also serve as scout day on the LU campus. All scouts who are in uniform will receive free admission to the game, and will have an opportunity to earn a scout badge. Fans will also have the opportunity to meet and greet the 2016 LU softball team.

Today’s game is slated to tip off at 4:30 p.m., and will be the second half of a men’s and women’s doubleheader. The game will also be televised on ESPN3 – the network’s online platform.