Cards beaten up in paint to close season

Published 9:46 pm Thursday, March 3, 2016

Lamar sports information

HUNTSVILLE — Four players finished the night in double figures, but the Lamar Cardinals were unable to overcome a hot start by Sam Houston State as LU dropped its season finale, 94-76, Thursday evening in Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.

The loss ends Big Red’s year at 11-19 overall and 3-15 in conference play.

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“We got beat up a little bit in the paint tonight. Sam Houston is a very physical team,” said LU head coach Tic Price. “You can’t go on the road and turn the ball over 22 times and expect to win. We only forced them into 12 turnovers, and we sent them to the free throw line too many times.”

Sam Houston finished the game shooting better than 53 percent from the field after knocking down nearly 70 percent of its shots in the opening half. LU was 27 of 54 (.500) for the game and outshot the Bearkats in the second half.

LU was hurt by mistakes throughout the game turning the ball over 22 times, which the Bearkats converted into 18 points. In addition to the turnovers, SHSU hit eight more free throws than the Cardinals attempted. The Cardinals were also beat on the boards, 38-27.

LU finished the night with four players in double digits led by sophomore Kevin Booze’s 17 points. Junior Preston Mattingly added 13 points, while freshman Boaz Williams came off the bench to add 12 points on 3 of 4 (.750) shooting from three-point land. Freshman Nick Garth closed out his rookie campaign with an 11-point outing.

Sophomore Zjori Bosha recorded one of his best performances as a Cardinal. He had an impact on both ends of the floor scoring eight points on 3-of-3 shooting, pulling down five rebounds, dishing out three assists and recording two steals.

“Zjori gave us some quality minutes defensively,” said Price. “He was very sound tonight. We have seen both he and [Terrance] Hubby come a long way in the past couple of weeks. Those two guys have come on strong. The future is bright for Lamar Cardinals basketball, and we have another strong class coming in next year.”

The Bearkats were led by 26 points and eight rebounds from Aurimas Majausksas. Jamal Williams added 16 points and pulled down seven rebounds.

The Bearkats started the game on fire knocking down nine of the first 10 attempts, including 3-of-4 (.750) from the three-point range. SHSU’s hot start led to a 10-point advantage, 23-13, 8:30 into the contest. SHSU missed only two shots in their first 14 attempts, and built their advantage to as many 13 just over 10 minutes into the half, but that is when the Cardinals began chipping away at the deficit.

Even though the Bearkats got out to a hot start, LU didn’t shy away. Big Red hit four of its first 10, and was 15 of 31 (.484) from the field in the opening half, including a 5-of-12 (.417) performance from three-point range. The Cards did just enough offensively to hang in the game until their defense took over.

The Cards forced their hosts into eight first-half turnovers which LU converted into 10 points. LU was able to trim the lead down to single digits with 4:23 remaining. The Cards stayed on the attack and got the lead down to six after Mattingly forced a turnover and Bosha scored a layup and converted the and-one.

LU pulled even on the next two possessions when it got consecutive threes from Garth and Booze. The Bearkats answered the 11-0 run by outscoring LU 11-4 in the closing minutes of the half to take a 48-41 lead into the locker room.

SHSU opened the second on a 13-8 run to take a 15-point advantage early in the half but the Cards didn’t allow the Sam Houston to run and hide. The Cardinals got a basket from Mattingly on a nice spin move in the paint to pull LU within six, 77-71. After Majauskas answered with a basket at the other end of the floor LU returned fire with a three-pointer from Bosha to cut the deficit down to five points, 79-74, with just under 7 minutes remaining, but Big Red could get no closer as the Bearkats responded with an 11-2 run to push their advantage back to double digits.

The loss ends the Cardinals season just outside of the eight-team field that advances to Katy for the Southland Conference Championships.