WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Cards earn share of Southland title

Published 9:30 pm Saturday, February 24, 2018

Lamar sports information

NACOGDOCHES – The Lamar Cardinals jumped out to a 10-0 start and never looked back overwhelming Stephen F. Austin, 75-58, Saturday afternoon at the William R. Johnson Coliseum to win at least a share of the Southland Conference women’s basketball title.

The victory locked up at least a share of the Southland Conference regular-season title for Cardinals – their first since 2014. The Cardinals will have a shot to win the title outright in the regular-season finale against McNeese State in the regular-season finale on March 3.

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The Cardinals also locked up the No. 1 seed for next month’s Southland Conference Tournament in Katy, guaranteeing LU a berth in a national postseason tournament. Should LU not get a bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Cards would receive a berth in the Women’s NIT. It will be LU’s six appearance in a national postseason tournament in the last nine seasons.

The Cardinals (21-6 overall, 16-1 Southland) were dominant in all phases of the game, shooting nearly 48 percent from the field (30-of-63), including nine three-pointers. LU outrebounded SFA 36-26, including 17 offensive boards, which the Cardinals turned into 23 second-chance points (LU held a 23-2 advantage in second-chance points).

SFA came out in the third quarter and shot better than 72 percent from the field, but that was not enough to overcome a 6-21 start in the opening half. The Ladyjacks finished the game 20-of-46 (.435) from the field and were forced into 24 turnovers, which the Cards cashed in for 30 points.

“We came out today very focused, and put up a dominating performance,” LU coach Robin Harmony said. “In the third quarter, SFA made a run at us but we held them back and we kept the pressure up. I’m really very proud of our team today.”

Senior Kiandra Bowers led three Cardinals in double figures with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Junior Moe Kinard scored 14, while senior Baileigh O’Dell added 13. Bowers now has 902 career rebounds, just the third play in the 49-year history of the LU women’s basketball program to teach the 900-rebound plateau.

O’Dell’s trio of three-pointers give her 176 for her career, tied with JaMeisha Edwards for third on LU’s all-time chart.

“You have to look at Baileigh’s performance off the bench, but she wasn’t the only one,” Harmony said. “Baileigh came off the bench and scored 13 points, but Ashlan Miles came off the bench really hit some daggers for us and played some great defense for us. This was a total team effort.”

The Cardinals jumped out of the gate taking a 10-0 lead behind some strong defense. LU forced the Ladyjacks into five early turnovers and held the home team to an 0-of-4 start from the field. While the Ladyjacks were struggling, LU came out swinging, opening the game with a DeA’ngela Mathis three-pointer and converting four of its first six attempts.

LU continued the hot shooting knocking down 7 of 11, while the SFA was left trying to fix a sputtering offense. SFA’s Stevie Parker finally ended the drought with a layup to get the Ladyjacks on the scoreboard with 6:15 remaining in the opening quarter. The basket sparked an 8-3 for the Ladyjacks, but they continued to struggle from long range missing their first six attempts from three-point land.

Kinard put an end to the SFA run with a three-pointer in the corner. The Cardinals got a stop on the next possession and converted the turnover into a fast-break basket for Bowers to give the Cardinals an 18-8 lead.

The Cardinals didn’t take their foot off the accelerator for the remainder of the half, going on another 10-0 run to build a 21-point lead before halftime. The Cardinals shot better than 50 percent in the opening half (17 of 30). LU also outhustled the Ladyjacks on the glass recording an 18-12 advantage, with seven offensive boards.

The Cardinals found an advantage in the low post, outscoring SFA, 20-8, in the paint in the opening 20 minutes. LU also converted the Ladyjacks’ 16 first-half turnovers into 18 points.

SFA finished the half with just six field goals, being held to a 6-of-21 (.286) shooting performance in the game’s first 20 minutes, including a 2-of-10 effort from three-point range.

The Cards pushed their lead to as many as 27 points in the second half before SFA attempted a run. The hosts trimmed the advantage down to 17 points with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter but the Cardinals. It was an effort in futility for SFA as the Cardinals went on a 14-7 run to push the advantage back over 20 points to hold on for the blowout victory.

LU’s Chastadie Barrs had six steals, giving her a national-best 177 this season. Barrs has at least one steal in all 88 games of her career. The junior guard also had eight assists, five points and five rebounds, giving her an even 500 boards for her career.

The Cards will have a week to rest before Saturday’s regular-season finale against McNeese at the Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.

Saturday is going to be a very important game for us,” said Harmony. “We’re looking for a big crowd at Lake Charles to get behind our team as look to win this title outright.”