Beaumont’s Cardinals still face hole in playoff race

Published 11:42 pm Friday, February 26, 2016

Lamar sports information

BEAUMONT — The Lamar men’s basketball team (11-16, 3-12 Southland) will step on the court today in San Antonio looking to make up ground with three games remaining in the 2015-16 regular season.

The Cardinals are currently on the outside of the conference playoff race, a game back of McNeese State (6-19, 4-11 SLC) for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Cardinals enter the final three games of the regular season with the bottom six eligible teams separated by a total of three wins. Southeastern Louisiana enters the week with six wins, while New Orleans and Northwestern State each have five, McNeese State has four and Nicholls has three.

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LU will receive some immediate help today as Nicholls travels to Lake Charles to face McNeese State, but none of that will matter if the Cardinals don’t take care of the remaining schedule in front of them, and it is not an easy slate. The Red and White travels to UIW before returning home to host McNeese State. The Cardinals close out the 2015-16 regular season Thursday, March 3 in Huntsville against Sam Houston State.

The most immediate obstacle is today in San Antonio. The Southland’s other group of Cardinals are currently fifth in the league standings with a 14-11 (.560) overall record and a 9-5 Southland mark, but are ineligible for conference tournament play due to NCAA rules transitioning up from Division II status.

The two schools met earlier this season with UIW edging out the Red and White by three in the Montagne Center. In an ironic twist of the fate, it was LU who jumped out to an early double-digit first half lead overcoming the struggles of sluggish starts, only to watch UIW rally for the victory.

UIW had four players in double figures that night led by 17 points from Jontrell Walker. After a quick start to the game, LU cooled off from the field shooting less than 38 percent and less than 29 percent from three-point range. Freshman Nick Garth led Big Red’s offense with 14 points, while senior Quan Jones added 13 points.

Although the series with UIW is a fairly new one (first meeting was in 2014), the Cardinals have yet to beat UIW in San Antonio having dropped both meetings. It will be a just as tough this season as UIW has played near flawless basketball at home winning 80 percent of the games. LU has had its fair share of struggles on the road posting a 4-8 (.333) record away from the Montagne Center.

UIW has three players averaging in double digits, led by Kyle Hittle’s 15.4 points per game. LU is led by freshman Nick Garth. The league’s second-leading scorer is averaging better than 14 points per game but is looking to bounce back from his previous two outings where he has been unable to reach double figures.