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Lamar secures first-round bye

Lamar sports information

CORPUS CHRISTI – The Lamar Cardinals put forth a gutsy effort, overcoming a double-digit deficit to clinch a first-round bye in the Southland Conference Tournament with a 74-63 victory over the host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders on Saturday afternoon.

The Cardinals (19-6 overall, 12-3 Southland) trailed by as many as 11 points in the third quarter and saw two starters foul out in the fourth quarter, but found a way to say in the battle for the top spot in the conference.

LU trailed 20-17 after one quarter and 39-30 at halftime. The Cardinals trailed 42-31 with 7:31 remaining in the third quarter before cutting the Islanders’ lead to 55-49 heading into the fourth quarter. The Cardinals built off that momentum to start the fourth quarter, opening the period on a 16-2 run to take 65-57 lead with 3:20 remaining.

The Cardinals fashioned the comeback despite being without the services of starters Kiandra Bowers and Chastadie Barrs, who both fouled out. Bowers finished with seven points and six rebounds, as she saw her streak of double-doubles end at six games. Barrs had 13 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Kiara Desamours had 14 points to lead LU. Moe Kinard added 11 points and a career-high four steals. With Barrs and Bowers out of the game, the LU bench stepped up big time, outscoring the Islanders’ bench 22-14. Baileigh O’Dell contributed nine points and helped seal the win by going 4-of-4 from the foul line. Kyla Green equaled her career high with eight points.

The Islanders (9-16, 5-9) had trouble with LU’s pressure defense, committing 22 turnovers, seven in the decisive fourth quarter, when LU outscored the Islanders 25-8. For the game, LU had a 30-15 edge in points off turnovers.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi also had no answer for LU’s inside game, as the Cardinals dominated points in the paint, 38-18.

Brittany Mbamalu led the Islanders with a game-high 17 points, but was held to just one point in the second half. Dalesia Booth had 16 points in the loss.

STANDINGS

LU remains one game behind conference-leading Central Arkansas (21-4, 13-2). Abilene Christian (18-6, 11-2), which pulled out a last-second win at Northwestern State, is in second place, but ineligible for the conference tournament. LU sits a half-game ahead of Stephen F. Austin (20-5, 11-3). The top two teams receive a double bye into the conference semifinals.

UP NEXT

LU is idle until 2 p.m. Saturday, when it hosts Houston Baptist. The Cardinals host Nicholls State at 7 p.m. March 1 before closing out the regular season at 1 p.m. March 4 at McNeese.

IT TAKES A THIEF

Barrs, who entered the game leading the nation in steals, now has at least one steal in all 56 games of her career.

MILESTONE WATCH

LU coach Robin Harmony has 199 career wins. Harmony’s coaching record, including her stints at Miami and St. Thomas, is 199-99.