Cardinals and Cowboys to play for Southland Tournament title
March 9, 2012
KATY - Lamar and McNeese State will meet on the basketball court for the third time this season and the prize is a trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals and Cowboys will square off Saturday afternoon at 2 from the Merrell Center in the championship game of the Southland Conference Tournament.
The game will be broadcast live in Beaumont of KLVI 560 AM with Dave Hofferth providing the play-by-play, and will be televised on ESPN2 with Carter Blackburn and Dereck Whittenburg calling the action. Tickets can be purchased at the Merrell Center and there is a Lamar ticket window.
This is Lamar's first trip to the conference tournament championship game since the Cardinals won the event in 2000. The Cowboys are making their second straight trip to the conference title game, losing 75-72 last year to UTSA. The winner of the game will earn the Southland Conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
No. 3 seed Lamar (22-11) earned its way to the championship game by knocking off Northwestern State 76-69 in the first round before stopping second seeded Stephen F. Austin 55-44 in the semifinals. The fourth seeded Cowboys (17-14) needed overtime to take out UTSA 78-74 in the opening round before blowing out regular season champion UT Arlington 92-72 in Thursday's second semifinal game.
Lamar will be playing its most common opponent in McNeese State as this will be the 92nd meeting between the two schools. The Cardinals lead the series 49-42 after winning at home 78-68 just one week ago. The Cowboys came from behind on Jan. 11 to win 57-54 earlier this season in Burton Coliseum.
Lamar won the only other neutral site game 95-88 in overtime in the 1985 Southland Tournament in Ruston, La. This will be the first time the two have ever met in the championship game of the SLC Tournament, but the fourth time they have met in the conference tournament with the Cardinals holding a 2-1 edge. The last time came in the 2002 semifinals when McNeese State won 71-57.
In last Saturday's meeting, Lamar led by as many as 19 points before the Cowboys came back to within four points with just over eight minutes to play. After MSU's Patrick Richard missed the front end of a one-and-one, Lamar scored five straight points to push its lead back to nine.
Richard hit a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left to make it a 72-65 game, but Lamar hit six straight free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
The Cardinals ended the first half on a 20-0 run, holding the Cowboys scoreless for the final 9:16 in building a 40-23 halftime lead. Lamar shot 53.3 percent from the floor in the first half and 45.6 percent for the game.
Lamar had a big advantage at the free throw line where it hit 21-of-30 while the Cowboys were just 7-of-16. Senior guard Anthony Miles hit all 10 of his free throw attempts on his way to 17 points.
Mike James led all players with 23 points and matched his career-high with eight rebounds. Devon Lamb added 19 points and seven rebounds, while Miles had six rebounds and five assists to go along with his points.
Dontae Cannon led the Cowboys with 18 points. Richard finished with 17 points and Rudy Turner added a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds.
While James, Miles and Lamb have led the Cardinals all season, fellow senior Charlie Harper has put together two straight strong games in the conference tournament. After scoring just 25 points in the Cardinals' final five regular season games, Harper has now scored in double figures in both tournament games.
In Lamar's two wins, Harper is averaging 12.0 points and 5.5 rebounds in just over 23 minutes of playing time off the bench. He is shooting 57.1 percent from the floor in the tournament and has made 8-of-10 from the free throw line.
Harper has joined James, Miles and Lamb as the only double figure scorers in the tournament. The quartet is averaging 57.0 of the 65.5 points per game that Lamar has posted through the first two games of the Southland Tournament.
Lamar comes in averaging 74.1 points per game on the season, while McNeese is up to 67.6 after its big offensive game against the Mavericks. The two teams are nearly identical in points per game allowed at just under 66.
Lamar and McNeese take great care of the ball with both teams averaging just over 12 turnovers per game to rank as the top two in the conference. In fact, Lamar has committed just 17 total turnovers through the first two tournament games.
The game will feature two of the top three individual scorers in the Southland in Richard and James. Richard, who was named the Southland Player of the Year, leads the league at 18.2 points per game. James, a first-team all-conference selection, is third at 16.9 points per game.
Miles is averaging 14.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and a team-best 4.1 assists per game. The seventh-leading scorer in Lamar history with 1,465 career points, Miles had 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five steals in Thursday's win over SFA.
Lamb is the final double-figure scorer for Lamar at 11.9 points per game to go along with his team-leading 8.1 rebounds per game. Lamb has 10 double-doubles on the year for Lamar, but has managed only 10 total rebounds in the tournament thus far.
In addition to Richard, the Cowboys are getting 11.5 points per game from Cannon and 11.0 from Jeremie Mitchell. The 6-foot-3 Mitchell leads the Southland in 3-pointers per game at 2.3. Turner is adding 8.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest.