Feb. 22, 2014
BEAUMONT, Texas -
Lamar pushed the second-place Southland's second-place team to the final horn but the upset bid fell just short as Sam Houston State (19-7/11-3 SLC) held on for a 74-71 victory over the Cardinals Saturday night in the Montagne Center. The loss knocked Lamar to 3-23 on the season and 2-12 in league play.
Junior Nimrod Hilliard scored a game-high 21 points , and was one of three Cardinals to finish the game in double figures, as Lamar shot nearly 43 percent from the field, while knocking down five three pointers. Lamar's defense also forced SHSU into 20 turnovers which they converted into 21 points.
The game came down to Lamar's final possession and the Cardinals put the ball in the hands of Hilliard. Lamar got the basketball back with 27 seconds remaining trailing by one, 72-71. Following a timeout, Hilliard ran the clock down to five seconds and drove to the right elbow where he pulled up for the 15 footer, but the shot rolled off the rim. Sam Houston hit two free throws at the other end of the floor and Hilliard's last second heave bounced off the backboard for the final score.
"I'm proud of these guys tonight," said interim head coach Tic Price. "They played hard the whole game, and we got good effort from everyone. I felt like we played a little nervous in the first half, and missed some shots we should have made. There is an old saying among coaches `winning becomes a habit like losing can become a habit,' right now we just need to find a way to win. We're now going to get back to work Monday and try and find a way to win."
In a game that saw the score tied nine times and eight lead changes, things got concerning for Lamar late in the first half. After exchanging baskets for the first 14 minutes of the game the `Kats went on a little run to take a seven-point advantage, 22-15, with five minutes remaining. Lamar responded by scoring the next six point to cut the lead to one before SHSU would grab a three-point lead heading into halftime, 32-29.
Sam Houston built that lead to eight points less than three minutes into the second half, but just as soon as the Bearkats would get a little breathing room Lamar made another run. Freshman Preston Mattingly
checked into the lineup in the second half and helped spark a run. The Indiana native hit a three-pointer to give Lamar a four-point advantage with 12:08 on the clock, grabbed three rebounds, dished out two assists and recorded a steal.
"Preston Mattingly came off the bench in the second half and really gave us some great minutes," said Price. "I felt like we got that effort from a lot of guys tonight."
Following Sam Houston's eight-point second-half lead neither team could manage better than a five-point advantage. The Cardinals tied the game back up at 68 with 90 seconds remaining, but the Sam Houston scored the next four points to reclaim the lead, while Hilliard's three-pointer with 34 seconds remaining was the only basket for the Cardinals in the final 1:30.
Senior Amos Wilson finished the game with 14 points and a game-high seven rebounds, while junior Donovan Ross added 11 and classmate Anthony Holliday came off the bench to chip in 10. Lamar's reserves gave the team a huge boost in the second half. After being outscored 16-2 in the first 20 minutes, LU's bench outscored Sam's reserves 15-11 in the second half.
The Bearkats, who finished the game with four players in double digits, gained a big advantage on the glass outrebounding Lamar, 35-27. The `Kats turned that advantage into a 13-6 lead in second chance points. SHSU finished the night shooting 48 percent from the field, but were held to 4-of-17 (.235) from beyond the arc.
The Cardinals return to action Thursday when they travel to Tulsa, Okla., to take on Oral Roberts. The game against the Golden Eagles is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m.