Feb. 8, 2012
BEAUMONT - Mike James led all scorers with 22 points, and Devon Lamb added his seventh double-double of the season, as the Lamar men's basketball team raced past Southland Conference rival Northwestern State 85-66 on Wednesday night at the Montagne Center.
It was the Cardinals' fourth straight win, and more importantly, pulled them into a tie with the Demons in the conference race at 7-3. Both teams sit a half game behind idle McNeese State (7-2) in the SLC East Division standings.
The Cardinals improved to 16-8 on the year, their highest win total since the 2007-08 squad finished 19-11, and snapped a four-game losing streak to the Demons (14-10 overall). Lamar will look for its fifth straight win at Nicholls on Saturday afternoon at 1.
"I told them tonight that this is our biggest game because they're ahead of us, they're in the number one position where we want to be and they beat us last time," said LU head coach Pat Knight. "And so, from an impressive standpoint, because it's the one we just played, this is our biggest win of the year."
After leading 40-30 at the half, Lamar pushed its lead to 14 points less than two minutes into the second half. NSU's Tyler Washington buried a 3-pointer at the 13:17 mark that made it a 57-49 game, but the eight-point deficit was as close as the Demons would get.
A James layup at the 8:31 mark put the Cardinals in front 68-57, and NSU would get no closer than 10 the rest of the way. Lamar's biggest lead came with 50 seconds to play as Vincenzo Nelson made 1-of-2 free throws to give the Cards an 85-64 lead.
After losing to the Demons in Natchitoches, La., just two weeks ago, Lamar was able to reverse its fortunes by shooting much better Wednesday night. The Cards shot just 32.9 percent from the floor in the loss, but were a solid 49.3 percent Wednesday.
In fact, Lamar had shot at least 50.0 percent from the floor in its three games since losing at NSU, and missed out on a fourth straight game by one field goal. The Cardinals were 33-of-67 from the floor, including 30-of-56 (53.6 percent) from 2-point range.
Despite facing the top shot blocking team in the conference, Lamar continued to take the ball to the basket. NSU's William Mosley, who set a Montagne Center record with 10 blocked shots against Lamar last season, managed four of the Demons' five blocked shots Wednesday, but could not keep LU from scoring 46 points in the paint.
Lamar also committed just seven turnovers on the night as compared to NSU's 18. Lamar would enjoy a 20-4 advantage in points off turnovers, a complete turnaround to two weeks ago when the Demons outscored Lamar 13-11 in the category.
"Everyone showed up to play tonight, and that made a huge difference," said James. "I don't want to say that we didn't show up to play in our game up there (in Natchitoches, La.), but we were a little sluggish early in the game. That caused us to get out of sync.
"All of the players love it when the crowd gets loud like it did tonight. When they do that, it gives you another burst of energy."
The Demons grabbed their biggest lead of the night midway through the first half as Gary Stewart knocked down a 3-pointer to put NSU up 24-19 with 9:08 to play. A Lamb offensive rebound and layup capped an 11-0 Lamar run that gave the Cards a 30-24 lead that they would never surrender.
The rebounding was even with NSU finishing with a slight 40-39 advantage.
While the Demons managed to hit just 41.7 percent of their shots in the game, they were a healthy 8-of-14 from 3-point range. Washington, who finished with 11 points off the NSU bench, made all three of his shots from long distance.
James was 11-of-18 from the floor in scoring his 22 points. He was also one of three Cardinals to finish with four assists in the game.
Lamb scored 16 points for Lamar, also pulling down a team-high 11 rebounds. Junior forward Stand Brown chipped in with nine points and nine boards.
Senior point guard Anthony Miles struggled to find his shooting touch, hitting just 1-of-9 from the floor. However, he was 10-of-14 from the free throw line as he finished with 12 points, four assists and a season-high five steals.
"It's getting easier and easier for us to score," noted Miles. "I feel like we're going to continue to get better and better. We're a better team when I can attack the basket and get to the free throw line. I just need to do a better job of hitting my free throws than I did tonight."
In addition to his four blocked shots, Mosley added 16 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. The senior forward was an impressive 7-of-11 from the floor. James Hulbin added 11 points and four rebounds off the NSU bench.