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Cardinals forced to rebound again

SOUTHLAND MEN: N’WESTERN ST. (9-9) AT LAMAR (12-9)

• When: 4:30 p.m. today, or 30 minutes following women’s game

• Where: Montagne Center, Beaumont

• Webcast/Radio: ESPN3.com/KLVI-AM 560

• Southland records: Northwestern State 3-4, Lamar 4-4

• Series record: NSU leads 26-25; last meeting, Lamar won 86-82 in Beaumont on Jan. 16, 2016

BEAUMONT – When the Lamar men’s basketball team steps on the court Saturday afternoon against Northwestern State, it will do so looking to wash away the bitter taste from a heartbreaking overtime loss at home – a scenario that Big Red is all too familiar with.

The Cardinals struggled from the free throw line against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi connecting on less than 36 percent of their attempts. The game would go to overtime before the Islanders would escape with a three-point victory. LU was in a similar situation following its conference home opener against New Orleans. LU missed 11 free throws against the Privateers and also lost by three in overtime.

The good news for Cardinals’ fans is, the last time LU was in this situation, it responded with one of its best performances of the season. The Cardinals bounced back from the UNO setback with a 20-point victory over Southeastern Louisiana less than 48 hours later.

The loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi dropped the Cardinals (12-9, 4-4 Southland) into fifth place in league standings, and sets up a contest with a surging Northwestern State squad. The Demons (9-9, 3-4 SLC) were picked fourth in the preseason poll but struggled out of the gate in league play dropping their first three games of the year. The struggles are due in large part to their leading scorer, Zeek Woodley, missing time with injuries. An early favorite for Southland Player of the Year honors, Woodley has averaged better than 17 points per game when on the court, but has only played in 10 games this season.

Despite Woodley’s loss, the Demons managed to battle their way from the league’s doormat back into the thick of the race. Winners in three of their past four games, Northwestern State is coming off an impressive 14-point victory at Southeastern Louisiana and is currently eighth in the SLC standings just a game back of LU in the win column.

Even without the services of one of the league’s leading scorers for nearly half the season, the Demons enter the week averaging better than 75 points per game. The Cardinals still lead the Southland averaging better than 78 points per game, but will look for improvement on the free throw line where they’re shooting just 64 percent as a team.

In addition to improvement at the stripe, LU head coach Tic Price would like to see increased production on the glass. The Cardinals were out-rebounded by eight against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and rank fourth in the league pulling down 36.3 boards per game.

The Cardinals are a game under .500 (25-26, .490) all-time in the series. The Demons have done a lot of damage in the series recently having won five of the past six meetings, but the Cardinals got the upper hand last season with a four-point decision in Beaumont. The Cardinals are 18-6 (.750) all-time against the Demons in Beaumont.

Saturday will also serve as the reunion weekend for LU men’s basketball. The Cardinals will be welcoming back to campus former coaches, players, trainers, managers and administrators who helped build the tradition of Cardinals basketball through the years.

Saturday’s game is slated to tip off no earlier than 4:30 p.m. (or 30 minutes following the conclusion of the women’s game) from the Montagne Center. The game can be seen live on ESPN3, and heard live on Newstalk 560 KLVI.