Lamar meets Vermont in NCAA First Four game

GO CARDINALS <strong>Pat Knight and the Cardinals will play Vermont on Wednesday</strong>
Pat Knight and the Cardinals will play Vermont on Wednesday

March 13, 2012

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DAYTON, Ohio - For the first time since the 1999-2000 season, the Lamar University men's basketball team will be playing in the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals will square off against Vermont on Wednesday evening at 5:30 p.m. from University of Dayton Arena in a First Four contest.

This is the second year that the NCAA has had eight teams travel to Dayton to compete in the First Four games, with the four winners advancing to the second round at the regional sites. Lamar and Vermont are both considered No. 16 seeds and the winner will move on to Greensboro, N.C., for a Friday contest with No. 1 seed North Carolina.

Lamar is enjoying its most successful season since the early 1980s under first year head coach Pat Knight. The Cardinals, who are 23-11 overall for their first 20-win season since 1988, are making their sixth trip to the NCAA Tournament. Lamar is 5-5 in NCAA Tournament play, including a run to the Sweet 16 under Billy Tubbs in 1980.

The game will be televised on TruTV and can be heard in Southeast Texas on KLVI 560 AM with Harold Mann calling the play-by-play.

The Cardinals earned their way into the tournament by sweeping through the Southland Conference Tournament last week for the league's automatic berth. The championship game was a 70-49 victory over rival McNeese State that gave Lamar its first conference tournament title since 2000.

Lamar will be facing Vermont for the first time ever in basketball. The Catamounts sport an identical 23-11 record on the year and are coming off a 53-43 win over regular season champion Stony Brook in the America East Conference Tournament.

"I think going to the NCAA's is great for the program, it's great for the city of Beaumont and the fans," said Knight. "This is the most exciting time of the year and for us to be a part of it, I couldn't ask for anything more."

Lamar is averaging 73.9 points per game on the season, but its solid defense was big in winning the SLC Tournament. The Cardinals held two straight opponents under 50 points for the first time all season and are now giving up just 65.4 per game.

Vermont, which is coached by John Becker in his first season, has won 14 of its last 15 games. The Cats have been a strong road team as evidenced by their 11-6 road record. UVM comes in averaging 67.2 points per game on offense and 60.5 points per game allowed defensively.

This will be the fifth NCAA appearance for the Catamounts who went three straight years starting in 2003 and then returned in 2010. As a No. 13 seed in 2005, Vermont upset Syracuse in the opening round 60-57 in overtime before falling 72-61 to Michigan State.

This is one of the few games this season where Lamar has a lower shooting percentage from the free throw line than its opponent. The Cardinals are hitting a solid 72.1 percent from the charity stripe, but Vermont ranks 36th in the nation at 74.2 percent.

"They shoot the ball well, they take their time," said Knight about Vermont's style of play. "It's going to be a lot like playing Stephen F. Austin. They run the flex. They have three or four guys at a time who can shoot the ball so we have to guard the shooters. They try to slow it down which has given us problems at time."

Senior guard Mike James has been on a tear for the Cardinals lately, capped by a 26-point effort against McNeese State on Saturday to earn Southland Tournament MVP honors. James is averaging a team-high 17.0 points per game and has posted 13 games of 20 points or better.

Fellow senior Anthony Miles is putting up 14.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and a team-best 4.1 assists per game. Miles, who has 1,473 career points, needs 23 more to move into a tie with Tom Sewell for sixth place on the school's all-time scoring list.

The Cards' other double-digit scorer is senior guard Devon Lamb at 11.9 points per game. Lamb also leads LU with 7.9 rebounds per game, and he and Miles share the team lead with 57 steals apiece. Lamar's leader with 10 double-doubles on the year, Lamb managed just 14 total rebounds in the three-game SLC Tournament.

Redshirt sophomore Osas Ebomwonyi provided the Cards with a big lift in the conference title game against McNeese, coming off the bench to finish with nine points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots. He is now among the top 60 in the country at 1.9 blocks per game.

Vermont also has three double-figure scorers, led by freshman Four McGlynn at 12.0 points per game. An 89.0 percent free throw shooter, McGlynn has come off the bench to provide 3-point shooting in all 34 games this season.

Senior forward Matt Glass, a UMass transfer, is putting up 11.9 points per game, while sophomore forward Luke Apfeld is scoring just over 10 a game.

Sophomore forward Brian Voelkel leads the team in rebounding and assists with per game averages of 8.6 and 5.2, respectively.




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