Cardinals fall to Southland Conference leaders inside the Montagne Center
BEAUMONT – Lamar University went toe-to-toe with the Southland Conference’s best team Saturday evening at the Montagne Center, but the Cardinals finally ran out of firepower as Stephen F. Austin picked up a 65-51 men’s basketball victory.
Lamar led by as many as nine points in the first half, and trailed just 27-24 at intermission. SFA, which shot 60.9 percent from the floor in the second half, owned a 19-point lead with just over 10 minutes to play before Lamar put a scare into the Lumberjacks.
The Cardinals (2-20 overall, 0-10 in the Southland) used a 12-1 run over the following five minutes to cut SFA’s lead from 51-32 to 52-44. Senior forward Taylor Smith, who led the ‘Jacks with 20 points and seven rebounds, scored a layup to end the run.
“He’s an all-conference player,” said LU head coach Pat Knight about Smith. “He’s good. We liked him last year and he’s come along. We tried a lot of different things on him. The good thing about him is he doesn’t get upset when he doesn’t get the ball. He just goes and gets it off the offensive boards and that’s a good big man when they’ll go do that. I thought we did a pretty good job on him.”
Donnell Minton hit 1-of-2 free throw attempts with 3:48 to play that made it a 54-45 game, but SFA outscored the Cardinals 11-6 from that point to improve to 18-2 on the year and a league-best 9-1 in Southland Conference play.
Lamar, which was humbled 79-43 earlier this season at SFA, outrebounded the visitors 33-31 on the night. The Cardinals committed a season-high 29 turnovers in the first meeting, but finished with just 13 Saturday. LU had just four turnovers in the second half and SFA, which finished with nine on the evening, outscored Lamar just 18-12 in points off turnovers.
The Cardinals would shoot just 37.3 percent from the floor on the night, which included 8-of-25 aim (32.0 percent) in the second half. Lamar missed its three attempts from 3-point range, but was a solid 13-of-17 from the free throw line.
SFA point guard Hal Bateman, who finished with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists, hit 5-of-6 free throws over the game’s final 30 seconds to close the win.
Junior forward Amos Wilson led the Cardinals with 13 points, his highest scoring output since a season-high 21 point effort at Baylor on Dec. 12. Wilson was 5-of-9 from the floor and hit all three of his free throw attempts, while picking up two of Lamar’s six steals.
Senior forward Stan Brown, who was coming off a career-high 28 points on Thursday against Northwestern State, just missed out on a second straight double-double. Brown led all players with 10 rebounds, adding eight points on 3-of-11 shooting.
Redshirt freshman Rhon Mitchell scored all eight of his points in the first half as hit four of his first five shot attempts. Mitchell added seven boards and led the Cardinals with three assists and three blocked shots.
With the game tied at 13 early in the game, the Cardinals reeled off a 9-0 run to build a 22-13 first half lead. Smith, who scored 12 first half points, scored a layup to get SFA to within seven. Antonio Bostic hit a layup and Thomas Walkup added a trey to make it a 22-20 contest.
Lamar led 24-23 with just over three minutes to play in the first before Bateman hit a layup to give SFA the lead for good at 25-24. Bateman would add a jumper with 1:42 on the clock to close the first half scoring.
“As bad as this year has been, we’re going to look back on it and it’s going to end up being a good year for us when we get this thing rolling again,” said Knight about the Cards’ struggles. “We’re taking our lumps, but I saw a lot of improvement tonight.”
The Cardinals will look for their first league win Thursday evening at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and the game can be heard on KLVI 560 AM with Dave Hofferth providing play-by-play.Cardinals fall to Southland Conference leaders inside the Montagne Center Wednesday, April 23 2014, 11:23 AM CDT