MURRELL COLUMN: The game that should spark a turnaround

Published 6:09 pm Thursday, November 17, 2016

It’s no telling whether Bob West had a hunch that this season’s Lamar Cardinals might channel their inner 1979-80 version and stir up an upset over the Oregon State Beavers.

This was the game maybe the Cardinals themselves have been waiting for, the marquee victory that can bring some much-needed attention back to their program. Four straight seasons without an NCAA tournament berth can leave a team pretty dormant, after while.

Here’s why Lamar’s 63-60 victory Wednesday night is all the rave in Jefferson County, aside from the fact Oregon State competes in the Pac-12:

  • The Beavers overcame their postseason drought last season: Oregon State played in its first NCAA tournament in 26 years, making it out of a pool that included four top-25 teams. So, the citizens of Corvallis, Ore., didn’t have a reason to care about who Lamar is or where the university is located.

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“This was a great effort from our guys tonight,” Lamar coach Tic Price said after Wednesday’s win. “There was no one in this arena tonight — other than the guys in our locker room — who actually believed we could win. We never quit and I’m very proud of our effort. This is not an easy place to get a win.”

That, it is not. Oregon State had gone 16-3 in Gill Coliseum dating back to last season, and that’s a credit to the turnaround job that coach Wayne Tinkle has done … in the Pac-12, I tell you.

  • The Cardinals’ defense was on point: Lamar held sophomore forward Tres Tinkle to nine points and eight rebounds. While that’s almost a double-double, the coach’s son averaged 23 points and 12 rebounds going into Wednesday.

Oregon State, as a team, committed 27 turnovers, leading to 30 Lamar points. Much of that can be credited to the defensive value of Price’s prized newcomers at the point, former Montana State player Joey Frenchwood and Torey Noel. The two combined for seven steals.

(Frenchwood, a Californian who came to Lamar from Hill Junior College, began his career in the same conference where Wayne Tinkle coached the University of Montana, the Big Sky.)

Lamar valued the ball much better and turned it over only nine times, which is pretty good for a 40-minute game. That’s less than one turnover every 4 minutes.

  • Colton Weisbrod is playing as advertised: The recent junior college All-American looks like somebody who really has a year of collegiate experience. Weisbrod, who started his career at New Orleans, registered 16 points and 12 rebounds in his first road game with Lamar. That’s following up a 15-point effort at home against Howard Payne.

The Cardinals won with a balanced scoring effort, but Weisbrod is the only Cardinal who has been consistent in his scoring, albeit his team is just two games into the season.

The only disappointing thing about Wednesday’s result was that it didn’t make the sports highlights on the Houston news stations. Maybe I was expecting too much; James Harden and Russell Westbrook were facing off, that night. And Robert Horry’s son, Katy Taylor tight end Camron, was featured.

So, Lamar has another point to make this season — that beating Oregon State was no fluke to sweep under the rug. If the Cards get on a big streak, the Montagne Center will regain its magic.

The home audience is the group they have to reach first. Beating a Pac-12 team is a great start.

(By the way, if you ever travel through Prairie View, congratulate a Panther. That team won at Fresno State earlier this week after losing in its visit to Oregon State. Lamar visits Fresno State for a 1 p.m. tipoff Saturday.)

I.C. Murrell can be reached at 721-2435 or at On Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

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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