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LU men begin title quest tonight

The News staff report

BEAUMONT – For the first time since the 2011-12 season, the Lamar men’s basketball team is preparing for its opening-round game in the Southland Conference Championship tournament.

The Cardinals advanced to the tournament by way of an 18-13 (.581) overall record, and a 10-8 (.556) mark in conference play to earn the league’s No. 6 overall seed.

The Cardinals’ first-round opponent is No. 7 seed Southeastern Louisiana. The Lions finished the regular season a game above .500 (16-15), and just a game back of Big Red with a 9-9 (.500) conference record.

The Lions enter the tournament having split their last six decisions, but are coming off an impressive five-point victory over regular-season champion New Orleans in their regular-season finale.

The Red and White carry some momentum with them into the postseason having won three of their final four, including a seven-point win at rival McNeese, 90-83, on the final day of the regular season to lock up the league’s No. 6 overall seed.

Junior Colton Weisbrod scored 32 points against the Cowboys to put an exclamation point on a first-team All-Southland Conference selection which was announced by the league Monday afternoon. Weisbrod finished sixth in the league averaging nearly 16 points per game and second in the conference pulling down 8.4 rebounds per contest. The former junior college All-American also finished the year fifth in the league in field goal

percentage despite facing double and triple teams for the majority of the year.

The two schools met earlier this season in January and the Cardinals got the upper hand in that contest. Big Red recorded a 74-54 decision behind a career-high 34 points from Weisbrod. The Cardinals shot nearly 53 percent from the field and better than 45 percent from beyond the arc, while holding the Lions to below 36 percent. LU also forced the Lions into 22 turnovers.

A major concern for the Cardinals coming out of that game was their work on the glass. LU finished the day getting outrebounded by two, 36-34.

Southeastern is led by sophomore guard Marlin Veal. A third-team All-Southland selection, Veal finished ninth in the league averaging nearly 15 points per game, and was seventh in the league in assists.

The Cardinals lead the all-time series against Southeastern, 25-21 (.543), and have won two of the past three meetings in the series. Today marks the first time the two schools have met in the conference tournament.

History is on the Cardinals’ side entering the tournament. The Cardinals have won the tournament four other times in program history, including their last time traveling to Katy – 2012. The one big difference between that team and this year’s team is LU only needed three wins to lock up the tournament crown in 2012. The Southland has since changed the bracket, and LU would need four wins to advance to the NCAA Championships this year.

Should the Cardinals advance past SLU, they would face Stephen F. Austin, who received an opening-round bye. The Lumberjacks (17-13, 12-6 Southland) earned the by after receiving the league’s No. 3 overall seed.

The game against Southeastern Louisiana will tip off at 7:30 p.m. at the Merrell Center in Katy. The game can be heard live on Newstalk 560 KLVI, and will be televised on ESPN3. Single-game tickets and tournament books are still available through the LU Ticket Office by calling 880-1715, or by logging onto www.LamarCardinals.com.