March 7, 2012
KATY - Senior guard Mike James knocked down a baseline jumper with just over a minute and a half to play to break a 65-65 tie and propel Lamar University to a 76-69 opening round win over Northwestern State on Wednesday afternoon in the Southland Conference Men's Basketball Tournament.
The Cardinals improved to 21-11 with the win and will face Stephen F. Austin (20-11) on Thursday evening at 6:05 from the Merrell Center in Katy. Lamar lost its only meeting with SFA this season by a 62-52 score on Feb. 22. This will be the second meeting in the Southland Tournament between the two with Lamar winning the only other game 53-36 in 2002's first round.
Lamar scored the first four points of the second half to extend its 35-26 halftime lead to 13 points with 18:52 to play in the game. NSU then went on a 20-8 run over the next 6:15 to pull within one point at 47-46.
"We have a problem with sustaining a lead," said LU head coach Pat Knight who has led Lamar to its highest win total since the 1983-84 season. "We had a great first half, but for some reason we get loose and complacent and let them back in the game, but these guys never gave up."
The Demons eventually tied the game at 48 with 10:24 to play, and then a William Mosley jump shot at the 9:35 mark gave NSU its first lead since 2-0 to start the game. The Demons, who shot 45.2 percent from the floor, weren't able to get ahead by more than four points.
NSU's Shamir Davis hit 1-of-2 free throws with 3:11 to play to put his team up 65-61. After a Charlie Harper layup, James tied the game with 2:23 to play on a double-clutch jumper from the free throw line. James then hit the jumper that gave the Cards the lead for good as Lamar scored 10 straight points to build a 71-65 lead with just 36 seconds to play.
"We have people on our team that can make plays," said James about how the Cardinals finished the contest. "All we wanted to do was to be in the game towards the end, and we were. I never sensed anyone being rattled."
Lamar hit free throws down the stretch, and a Devon Lamb
breakaway layup with 14 seconds to play all but sealed the win as it gave the Cards a 75-69 lead. Lamb, who finished with 12 points and six rebounds, would add a free throw with seven seconds to play to close out the scoring.
The Cardinals pounded NSU on the boards, outrebounding the Demons 46-32. The Cards hit 50.0 percent of their field goal attempts in the second half and shot 42.4 percent for the game.
Lamar's ability to get to the free throw line proved to be the difference, though. Both teams had 28 field goals and three 3-pointers, but Lamar was 17-of-23 from the charity stripe while NSU was 10-of-13.
"It's always huge when we can hit free throws," said Knight. "It keeps you in charge and it keeps the momentum going. If you miss the free throws, it just gives the opposing team momentum. Our guys did a great job hitting free throws."
James led Lamar with 21 points, adding six rebounds and four of Lamar's 13 assists. Anthony Miles chipped in with 16 points, five rebounds and three assists and Stan Brown matched a career-high with 10 rebounds to lead all players. Brown added six points and three of Lamar's six blocked shots.
Senior forward Charlie Harper had a huge game off the Lamar bench. Harper hit his first three shots in the game and finished 5-of-7 from the floor en route to a 14-point, seven-rebound performance.
Mosley, who was playing just four days after the passing of his infant twin sons, had a huge game for the Demons. The nation's second leading shot blocker, Mosley finished with a career-high 22 points, nine rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
Louis Ellis added 15 points for NSU, and Davis scored all 12 of his points in the second half.