Feb. 13, 2014
BEAUMONT, Texas -
Lamar shot better than 50 percent from the field and pushed the Southland Conference leaders to the brink before dropping a 78-69 decision to Stephen F. Austin (23-2/12-0 SLC) Thursday night at the Montagne Center.
"We gave it everything we had," said head coach Pat Knight. "If we played that way the whole season, we wouldn't be in this position. We got close a couple of times, but we couldn't get over the hump. They (SFA) made a couple of big plays when we didn't. I couldn't ask for anything more from these guys tonight."
The Cardinals (3-21/2-10 SLC) shot better than 50 percent from the field and got a team-high 16 points from juniors Donovan Ross and Nimrod Hilliard and sophomore Rhon Mitchell. The Cardinals connected on 23-of-44 (.523) from the field, led by Ross who was 6-of-7 (.857). All of this with junior Anthony Holliday sidelined by an injury seven minutes into the game.
Stephen F. Austin was able to hold off every Lamar run with some strong shooting of its own. The Lumberjacks connected on 66 percent of their shots led by senior Desmond Haymon's game-high 30.
Despite their torrid shooting pace, the Lumberjacks could gain no more than an eight-point advantage in the opening half. Lamar responded to that deficit by going on a 13-4 run to take claim a one-point advantage, 22-21. The lead was short lived as the `Jacks jumped back out in front by six. The Cardinals continued their intense play and cut the lead back to one before a Haymon three-pointer gave SFA a four-point halftime advantage, 37-33.
It was more of the same in the second half, as Lamar kept the game within seven points until less than seven minutes remaining when the visitors took a nine-point lead on a Deshaunt Walker field goal. It appeared the nation's third-ranked mid-major team was seeking the knockout punch, but after falling behind by 11 the Cardinals made another run.
Sparked by a three-point play from Ross, the Cardinals scored seven of the game's next eight points to cut the deficit down to five with 2:40 remaining. SFA responded with and-one from Thomas Walkup to build the lead back to eight points. The `Jacks hit their free throws down the stretch to push the put the game away.
In addition to his 16 points, Hilliard just missed a double-double with a game high nine assists. He also pulled down a team-high six rebounds. Sophomore Donnell Mitchell added 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
The Cardinals return to action Saturday when they host Northwestern State. The game against the Demons is slated to tip off 30 minutes following the women's game, and will not start until at least 6 p.m.