MEN’S BASKETBALL: Close calls not Cardinals’ friend

Published 2:30 pm Friday, January 11, 2019

Lamar sports information

BEAUMONT — The start to the 2018-19 Southland Conference schedule can be summed up in one word for the Lamar Cardinals men’s basketball team – heartbreaking.

The Cardinals’ (8-8, 1-2 Southland) have suffered two losses in their first three games and both have been in overtime. To make the story even more heartbreaking is the fact that LU battled back from double-digit deficits in both contests to force overtime and in both games had chances to win in regulation at the free throw line. Big Red must put those setbacks in the rearview mirror as they get ready for the Saturday’s contest against Central Arkansas.

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The Red and White will look to get back to the .500 mark in conference play Saturday when they travel to Conway, Arkansas, to take on Central Arkansas. It will be the Cardinals’ first trip to Conway since the 2016-17 season. The Bears (6-10) are in a similar position to LU in the Southland race – locked in a four-way tie for ninth – and have dropped five of their past seven games.

UCA opened their conference schedule with a 13-point loss at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi before traveling to Hammond, Louisiana, and pulling off a thrilling two-point victory over Southeastern Louisiana. The Bears opened the home portion of their conference schedule Wednesday with a 13-point setback to Sam Houston State.

Central Arkansas is averaging just under 71 points per game on the season, led by four players averaging better than 10 points per game. Sophomore DeAndre Jones leads the squad averaging better than 13 a night. UCA is shooting 43 percent from the field and is third in the Southland knocking down better than 36 percent of their three-point attempts. The Bears have struggled at times to slow down their opponents entering the weekend ranked 12th in the scoring defense.

The Red and White continue to rank among the league leaders in scoring ranked second overall at just under 80 points per game. The offense is led by senior Josh Nzeakor, who is seventh in the league averaging 15.3 points per game and second in rebounding (8.5 pg).

The Cardinals received a boost from junior Christian Barrett last time out. The 6-6 junior college transfer was the beneficiary of most of the double and triple teams on Nzeakor finishing the night with a career-high 16 points and 12 rebounds (his second double-double of the season).

The Cardinals lead the all-time series against Central Arkansas, 12-6 (.667) but are coming off consecutive losses last season. The Bears edged out a double-overtime victory in Beaumont last season and followed that up with a win the conference tournament. The Cardinals are 6-3 (.667) all-time against UCA in Conway and are looking for their second-straight road win in the series.

Saturday’s contest has been moved from its original 4 p.m. start to a 3 p.m. tip at the Farris Center in Conway. The game 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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