Feb. 25, 2012
HUNTSVILLE - After being challenged by head basketball coach Pat Knight earlier in the week, Lamar's senior class responded in a big way Saturday evening at Johnson Coliseum as the Cardinals used a huge second half to roll to a 72-49 Southland Conference win over Sam Houston State.
Knight made national headlines after he called out his seniors for their poor effort following Wednesday's 62-52 home loss to Stephen F. Austin. Saturday night, the Cardinals played with the type of energy and skill they are capable of in putting an end to a brief two-game skid.
"Boy they showed up tonight," said Knight. "I'll be the first to admit that I put them in a terrible position on purpose. I decided to do something pretty drastic, but I wouldn't have done it if I didn't have tough kids. I'm so proud of these seniors.
"It's all on them tonight. They stood up tonight. Our offense, our defense, just really came together. Especially to win on the road and this is a tough place to play. I'm really proud of these guys for the way they played tonight. I just tried to stay out of the way and not screw it up."
The win improves the Cardinals to 18-11 overall and 9-5 in conference play. Combined with McNeese State's 78-75 home loss to Nicholls on Saturday, the Cardinals are just a game behind the Cowboys in the East Division standing with two games to play. Sam Houston is now 12-17 on the year and 6-8 in the SLC.
After finishing the first half tied at 28, Lamar found its offensive touch in the second half. More specifically, senior guard Mike James found his shot. James was 9-of-13 from the floor in the second half as he scored 22 of his game-high 30 points over the final 20 minutes.
James buried one of his three 3-pointers with 14:38 to play in the game to give the Cards a 43-34 lead. Not only did it cap a 15-4 Lamar run, but it also marked the 10th straight point scored by James.
Just over a minute and a half later, James scored on a layup to give the Cardinals their first double-digit lead at 47-36. Sam Houston would get no closer the rest of the way as Lamar shot a blistering 63.3 percent from the floor in the second half to finish at 53.6 percent for the game.
The Cardinals finished with a 36-23 rebound advantage, despite getting just three boards from leading rebounder Devon Lamb. Lamar pulled down 10 rebounds off their own missed shots and converted them into a 10-2 advantage in second chance points.
Senior guard Anthony Miles joined James with a big game. The Houston native finished with 14 points, a game-high eight rebounds and seven of Lamar's 22 assists. He also committed just two turnovers in 37 minutes as the Cardinals finished with just nine in the contest.
While he wasn't his usual self on the boards, Lamb chipped in with 15 points and matched his career-high with five assists. Charlie Harper added five points, four rebounds and two of LU's seven steals off the bench.
Darius Gatson was the only Bearkat to score in double-figures as he finished with 13 points. Gatson added four assists and was 3-of-4 from 3-point range. Konner Tucker, who came into the game averaging a team-leading 12.3 points per game, finished with just four on 1-of-6 shooting.
The Bearkats' Antuan Bootle knocked down a layup with 12:46 to play in the first half that gave the home team a 16-8 lead, its largest of the game. Harper knocked down a layup just over three minutes later to finish a 10-0 run that gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game at 18-16.
Lamar also closed the first half on a 6-0 run as Nikko Acosta scored on a put back with less than a second to play to erase a 28-22 deficit.
The Cardinals will travel to Texas State on Wednesday before closing the regular season at the Montagne Center next Saturday against McNeese State.