Cardinals’ magic number for Katy: 2

Published 1:13 am Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Lamar sports information

BEAUMONT – The 2016-17 season is inching its way closer to the Southland Conference Championship tournament in Katy, and the league race is so tight that only two of the eight spots have been locked up. Lamar and Northwestern State head into tonight’s contest looking to shore up their spot in Katy.

For the Cardinals (15-12, 7-7 Southland), their magic number is down to two over Nicholls State, McNeese State and Northwestern State. Any combination of two LU victories, or two losses by Nicholls, McNeese and Northwestern State will put the Cardinals into the Southland tournament.

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Northwestern State is also in the hunt, and they are expected to have leading scorer Zeek Woodley for the final stretch run. A preseason favorite for the Southland Player of the Year award, Woodley has been injured for the majority of the season. The addition of Woodley injects nearly 20 points per game back into the Demons’ lineup. That is key for the Demons who are trying to chase down Southeastern Louisiana and Central Arkansas who are tied for the seventh in the league standings, and Nicholls who sits just ahead of them in the league race.

In addition to Woodley, the Demons should also have Beaumont native Josh Boyd back in the lineup as well. During the first meeting in Beaumont, Boyd was unable to play. Between Boyd and Woodley, that was 26 points per game missing from their lineup in the meeting earlier this year.

Despite having lost three straight entering the final game of a four-game road swing, the Cardinals enter the week sixth overall in the standings just a game back of Houston Baptist (who the Cardinals still have remaining on the schedule), and just a half game up on SLU and Central Arkansas. Each of the Cardinals’ final four regular-season games are crucial because they are against opponents that are only a game back in the standings (HBU), or against the three schools LU is trying to prevent from catching them.

The Demons (10-15, 4-10 SLC) are currently in a two-way tie for 12th with McNeese, just a game back of Nicholls. Northwestern State enters the week having a very favorable schedule with three of their final four games at home to close the season.

The Cardinals need only one more win to lock up its first winning season since 2011-12, but before LU can even think of an above .500 record or postseason, it will have to get past a Northwestern State team in a facility where the Cards have had little success.

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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