MEN’S BASKETBALL: Lamar erases big deficit, holds off McNeese

Published 9:02 pm Saturday, January 27, 2018

Lamar sports information

BEAUMONT – Five Cardinals scored in double figures as Lamar overcame a slow start to defeat rival McNeese State, 86-80, Saturday afternoon at the Montagne Center.

It marks the first time since the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons that Big Red has won three straight against the Cowboys.

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Two Cardinals recorded a double-double as LU (13-9, 5-4 Southland) finished the night shooting 45 percent from the field, including six three-pointers, and a 30-of-39 (.769) performance from the free throw line. Big Red also dominated the glass pulling down 10 more boards than their opponents, 38-28, including a 10-4 advantage in offensive rebounds. The Cards used their advantage on the glass to record a 13-6 lead in second chance points.

Both teams did a good job of taking care of the basketball turning it over just 10 times. Only four of LU’s miscues came in the second half.

Seniors Colton Weisbrod and Joey Frenchwood led the way with 19 points, while junior Josh Nzeakor and senior Zjori Bosha each finished the game with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Senior James Harrison chipped in 10 for the Red and White.

The Cowboys (7-11, 4-4 Southland) finished the night with three players in double figures led by Kalob Ledoux’s 20 points. Ledoux paced a McNeese offense that shot 49 percent from the field, including a 9 of 20 (.450) effort on three-pointers. The Cowboys converted 13 of 15 (.867) attempts at the free throw line.

“Rivalry games always have a lot of energy, and a ton of drama especially when Lamar and McNeese play,” said LU head coach Tic Price. “McNeese came out of the gate with a lot more effort and energy than we did, but I thought our kids responded with some toughness. It was like two boxers in the ring – punch, counter punch. What I really liked the most is we showed some toughness on the glass. They beat us up pretty good in the first couple of minutes but as the game progressed we got stronger in the effort areas.”

Both teams faced double-digit deficits, and both rallied to take the lead. Both went through cold spells only to find their rhythm and get their opponent back on its heels.

The first half alone was two different games as the Cowboys came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. McNeese outscored the Cardinals, 30-13, in the opening 10:21 to silence the predominantly Red and White crowd. On the verge of being knocked out early, the Cardinals didn’t allow the lead to grow any further and began to fight their way out of the corner.

Sparked by a Frenchwood three-pointer and a Kalob Ledoux technical foul, the Cardinals outscored McNeese, 27-7, over the next 7:30 to take their first lead of the game, 40-37. The Cowboys battled back to take a one-point lead with seconds remaining in the half. The Cardinals exited the floor with the final parting shot of the half as Bosha followed up a T.J. Atwood miss at the buzzer for the lead.

“We really had some guys step up today,” said Price. “We did a good job of sharing the basketball with five guys in double figures, and two with double-doubles. Every guy that played really stepped up and we had some good moments. On the other hand, we also had some moments where we were way too casual, especially for a game of this magnitude.”

The technical foul against McNeese was one of three charged against the Cowboys in the game, including two in the second half, and LU made them pay for the mistakes. The Red and White converted all six technical foul shots.

The Cardinals carried that momentum into the second half jumping out of the gate to take an eight-point lead. Frenchwood buried another three for the first points of the half, and the Cardinals opened on a 14-4 run to take an 11-point lead with just over 16 minutes remaining.

After LU pushed its lead to 12 following an Atwood three-ball, McNeese made a run similar to LU’s from the first half.

The Cowboys responded with a 15-7 run to trim the deficit down to three, 65-62, with more than 11 minutes remaining. McNeese forged their way back in front following two Stephen Ugochukwu free throws, 74-73, with 7:17 on the clock. The Cowboys were aided by four consecutive three-pointers to whittle away at LU’s lead.

The game would become a back-and-forth affair for the next 4:30 until the Cardinals reclaimed the lead for the final time on two Torey Noel free throws. After getting a stop, the Cardinals put the ball in the hands of Bosha who drove to basket for an acrobatic layup in traffic for the score. The Cardinals would tack on three more points – all via the free throw line – to push their lead back to seven with 22 seconds remaining. The Cowboys closed the game with only one more field goal, and were outscored, 9-2, in the final 3:51 after taking a one-point lead.

“Our fans were phenomenal,” said Price. “Our guys really fed off their energy today, and they were there for us when we needed them the most. We didn’t give them much to cheer about early in the game but they were our sixth man.”

The Cardinals now turn their attention to a game against Abilene Christian Wednesday when they travel to Abilene. The game against the Wildcats will tip off at 7 p.m. from Moody Coliseum. It can be heard live on Newstalk 560 KLVI.

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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