MEN’S BASKETBALL: Cowboys exceeding expectations going into Beaumont

Published 6:35 pm Friday, January 26, 2018

Lamar sports information

BEAUMONT — Lamar and McNeese State will be renewing their rivalry for the 102nd time in series history when the two teams step on the court at the Montagne Center on Saturday afternoon.

For both schools, the game is more important than simple bragging rights. The Cardinals enter the week in ninth place in the Southland standings just a half game back of Abilene Christian, Central Arkansas and McNeese.

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The Cardinals (12-9, 4-4 Southland) are currently on the outside of the playoff picture looking in after a disappointing performance against the league-leading Nicholls State Colonels on Wednesday in Beaumont. The Cardinals led Nicholls by three with less than 4 minutes to play and went to the free throw line to shoot two, but both free throws were off the mark and the Colonels closed the game on a 12-4 run for the win.

LU enters the weekend matchup winners in two of the past three, but they have dropped four of their past six, and eight of the last 12.

McNeese has been one of the big surprises of the Southland Conference to this point in the 2017-18 season. The Cowboys (7-10, 4-3 Southland) were picked to finished 13th in the league standings, but head to the Golden Triangle sixth in the standings just a game back of Stephen F. Austin.

The Cowboys have won consecutive Southland games after having dropped three straight. Saturday will be their first game since defeating Houston Baptist, 86-81, last Saturday in Houston.

Senior Colton Weisbrod leads a Cardinals’ offense that is averaging 76.8 points per game. He is averaging 17 points on the season, and is one of only three players averaging better than 20 points per game in conference play. Junior Nick Garth has stepped up his play over the course of the past three games averaging 23 points per game during that stretch.

The Cowboys are led by Kalob Ledoux’s 13.9 points per game, while newcomer Quatarrius Wilson is averaging nearly a double-double per game (10.2 ppg and 9.8 rpg). As a team the Cowboys are scoring 74.7 points per game.

The story could come on the defensive end of the floor where the Cowboys are surrendering better than 76 points per game to opponents, while LU is one of three league teams allowing fewer than 70 points (69.2 ppg). Big Red’s defense forced the league leaders into 27 turnovers Wednesday but the Cardinals didn’t make their guests pay for those mistakes. LU averaged one point per Nicholls’ turnover.

The Cardinals lead the all-time series against their rivals, 54-47 (.535), heading into the contest. The Cowboys had been making up ground in the series until the past couple years. LU swept the season series in 2016-17 and has won four of the past six meetings. The Cardinals are even more impressive at home boasting a 36-14 (.720) record against McNeese. The Cardinals will be looking to win three straight in the series for the first time since the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons.

Saturday’s game will tip off at 4:30 p.m. from the Montagne Center. The game can be heard live on Newstalk 560 KLVI and seen live on ESPN3.