Lamar’s slide continues

Published 11:54 pm Monday, February 8, 2016

BEAUMONT — Tic Price’s opening comments weren’t very long.

“Plain and simple, we make our free throws, we win the game,” Lamar’s head coach said. “Questions?”

But there was a little more to Lamar’s 71-67 defeat to Abilene Christian on Monday than just foul shooting, in which the Cardinals (10-14, 2-10 Southland) made 30 of 42.

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Down 65-63, Lamar failed to get a shot off before the shot clock expired.

“I think we might have passed up two opportunities,” Price said. “We tried to get to the rim, but we ended up passing the ball to Josh Nzeakor, who kind of floated on the floor, which that’s not where he does his work. He’s usually on the block and in the paint. Our guards pass it up to him, and I guess they didn’t want to take the last shot.

“We had the ball touch Quan’s [Quan Jones] and Nick’s [Nick Garth] hands. Two guards who had been playing well. The play broke down.”

Garth scored a game-high 20 points, senior Jones had a season-high 16 (one away from his career high) and Nzeakor finished with 14.

Jalen Little went to the ACU foul line three times in the final half-minute and made 6 of 6 to hold off the Cards, who have now lost seven straight. Their overall slump is 10 losses in the past 11 games, but for the third straight, Lamar lost by four or fewer points.

It wasn’t quite the comeback exhibition the Cardinals usually put on. They were down 24-13 almost 9 minutes into the game and pulled to within 40-37 by halftime, but they did not have to use much gas in the second half as usual to make a game of it.

Two free throws from Nick Garth gave the Cards a 50-49 lead, their first since it was 6-4 two minutes into the game. Garth had a game-high 20 points.

Lamar was hurt not having Dorian Chatman in action Monday. Price was asked twice why the freshman from Port Arthur, who was dressed out, did not play.

“Coach’s decision,” he answered twice. The Cardinals missed a forward who had scored in double figures the past three games but is averaging 8.6 points a contest.

Abilene Christian (11-13, 6-5 Southland), which is not eligible for the Southland Conference tournament because it’s a provisional Division I member, outscored Lamar 28-7 in bench points. Reserve guard Jovan Crnic had 13 points.

It was neck-and-neck until freshman Jaylen Franklin, who had 18 points, scored off the dribble and Little, who had 14 points, sank a three-point shot to give the Wildcats a 63-58 margin with 2:36 left.

Franklin all but gave the Cards the dagger with a floater at the 1:27 mark for a 65-59 cushion. But a pair of fouls in the next 20 seconds against the Wildcats led to four straight free-throw makes by Garth. Little missed an ensuing 1-and-1 opportunity, setting Lamar’s crucial possession that resulted in the shot-clock violation.

Lamar is off until next Monday, when it visits Houston Baptist.

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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