Jan. 4, 2012
CORPUS CHRISTI - Lamar guard Mike James poured in a season-high 31 points, including 18 in the first half, as the Cardinals opened the 2011-12 Southland Conference basketball season with a convincing 74-58 win at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Wednesday night.
The Cardinals, who will host Central Arkansas on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 as the back half of a doubleheader with the women's team, improved to 10-5 on the year. The Islanders have now dropped their last 10 games to fall to 1-12 on the season.
"The good thing is we're 1-0 and now we're in first place (in the Southland standings)," said LU head coach Pat Knight. "The bad news is we had some guys not show up and you can't do that in conference games. They played us really tough early and gave us some problems. We have to have everybody show up to play."
Lamar used a 14-4 run to close the first half, breaking a 25-25 tie to lead 39-29 at the break. James' second free throw after being fouled by Ali Hameed gave LU a 26-25 lead, and the Cards would never trail again.
James buried 7-of-8 from the floor in the first half, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range. The Islanders were able to stay close in the first half by knocking down 11-of-13 free throws and staying even on the boards with the Cardinals.
"We finally played harder than them," said Knight about the Cards' run to close the half. "For 17 minutes, we were bad. Then for three minutes, we actually played hard and got the lead. We have a lot to improve on."
The Cardinals were sluggish offensively to open the second half, and shot just 37.0 percent from the field over the second 20 minutes. James hit a trey to cap a 5-0 run to open the second half and put Lamar up 44-29 with 17:51 to play in the game.
The Islanders responded with a 10-2 run over the ensuing five minutes to pull within seven points at 46-39. Anthony Miles hit a pair of free throws and Brandon Davis connected on one of his three 3-pointers to put Lamar back on top by 12.
Following a Terence Jones 3-pointer for the Islanders, James hit a three of his own to put the Cards up 54-42 with 10:51 to play. The Islanders would get no closer than 11 points the rest of the way.
Lamar shot 45.6 percent from the floor, and was a sparkling 8-of-15 from 3-point range. The Cards were uncharacteristically poor from the free throw line where they made just 14-of-23 (60.9 percent). Lamar entered the game shooting 74.9 percent as a team.
The Cardinals were solid with the ball, committing just 12 turnovers in the game and enjoying a 20-9 advantage in points off turnovers. Despite being outrebounded on the offensive end 15-12, Lamar also outscored the Islanders 21-14 in second chance points.
James, whose previous high of 29 points came last week at No. 3 Kentucky, finished the game with 12-of-16 shooting. He was 4-of-5 from beyond the arc, and also picked up three of Lamar's 10 steals.
Davis was the only other Cardinal to finish in double-figures, scoring 11 points in 20 minutes of work off the bench. Miles and Devon Lamb each finished with nine points and five rebounds, and Stan Brown pulled down seven of LU's 35 rebounds.
Chris Hawkins-Mast led the Islanders with 15 points, while Johnathan Jordan added 13. Myron Dempsey chipped in with nine points and a game-high 10 boards.