Lamar Welcomes Rice On Saturday Night

GO CARDINALS Junior Kenny Dawkins
Junior Kenny Dawkins

Dec. 21, 2007

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For Openers
Lamar had its two-game winning streak snapped in Wednesday's 88-66 loss at No. 25 BYU, who extended its home court winning streak to 36 games. Lamar is 3-6 on the season, with a 3-2 record at home and 0-4 on the road. The first 500 fans through the turnstiles will receive a free T-shirt courtesy of game sponsor Philpott Motors.

Lamar-Rice Series History
This will be the 23rd meeting between Lamar and Rice with the Owls holding a 16-6 all-time series advantage. Rice won last year's meeting, 83-71, on Dec. 6, 2006 in Houston. Rice has won the last six meetings in the series. Lamar's last win in the series was 51-40 on Dec. 22, 1999 in Houston and its last win in Beaumont was 85-70 on Jan. 30, 1988.

Texas Tech Game Time Changed
Due to Texas Tech's Gator Bowl football game on Jan. 1, Lamar's game against the Red Raiders in Lubbock has been moved to 6 p.m. CST.

Last Game - at No. 25-BYU 88, Lamar 66
Senior Lamar Sanders was the only Cardinal to score in double-figures with 11 points as Lamar lost 88-66 to No. 25 Brigham Young at the Marriott Center 10 days ago. BYU jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead on a jumper by Lee Cummard and a three-pointer by Sam Burgess and the Cougars would never trail in the game. Cummard added a three-pointer and another jumper to make the score 10-2 at 17:54 of the first half. A Brandon McThay jumper and a three-pointer by Currye Todd trimmed the lead to 12-9 at 13:51. BYU answered with a 12-0 run that was capped by a Jonathan Tavernari layup to push the lead to 15 points, 24-9. Cummard closed out the first half scoring with a three-pointer with 27 second remaining to give the Cougars a 42-30 halftime lead. The Cardinals scored the first four points of the second half and cut the deficit to eight, 42-34, on a layup by Sanders at 18:38. Lamar kept the game close as Matthew Barrow's 3-pointer at 14:24 put the Cardinals down 10, 49-39. Trent Plaisted scored the next five points for BYU to push the lead back to 15 points, 54-39. A conventional three point play by Darren Hopkins cut the lead to 12, 65-53, with 7:24 left in the game. The Cougars followed with an 18-5 run to put the game away, pushing the lead to 25 points, 83-58, with 3:02 left. Sanders was 5 of 8 from the field in scoring his 11 points. He also grabbed five rebounds. Kenny Dawkins added nine points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Todd also added nine points off the bench. Lamar shot 38.1 percent (24-of-63) from the field, 27.8 percent (5-of-18) from 3-point range and 65 percent (13-of-20) from the free throw line. The Cardinals out scored the Cougars 34 to 28 in bench points. Cummard led all scorers with a career-high 27 points to pace BYU. He recorded a double-double with 10 rebounds and nearly made it a triple-double with eight assists. He was 11 of 16 from the field, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range. Plaisted added 22 points on 7 of 10 shooting from the field and 8 of 16 from the free throw line. He also had seven rebounds and five assists. Tavernari added 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench. BYU shot 44.8 percent (30-of-67) from the field, 39.3 percent (11-of-28) from 3-point range and 56.7 percent (17-of-30) from the free throw line. The Cougars outrebounded Lamar 50 to 34. BYU outscored the Cardinals 19-4 in second chance points and 34-28 in points in the paint.

Scouting Rice
Rice has struggled to a 2-6 start with four losses coming in "home" games played at the Merrell Center, Reliant Arena and the Toyota Center. Jasen Williams (11.3 ppg) is one of five players who average at least eight points per game, with Paulius Packevicius posting 10.4 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest. He is also the only Owl to start all eight games thus far. He has four double-doubles on the year including a 13-point, 15-rebound effort in Rice's 88-81 win at Texas State on Dec. 5. Tonight will be the first game in two weeks for the Owls after dropping a 80-54 decision to Texas on Dec. 8. Head coach Willis Wilson is 218-225 in his 16th season at his alma mater. He is 7-1 against Lamar.

Last Meeting - at Rice 83, Lamar 71 (12/6/06)
James Davis recorded a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, but it was not enough at Lamar dropped a hard-fought game to Rice, 83-71, at Autry Court. Trailing 33-30 at halftime, Currye Todd opened the second half by nailing a pair of three-pointers to give the Cardinals a 36-33 lead. However, Rice answered with a Greg Killings dunk and a three-pointer by Chris Hagan to reclaim the lead at 38-36. With the score tied at 42-42, Morris Almond and Lorenzo Williams hit consecutive three-pointers to give the Owls the lead for good at 48-42 with 12:41 remaining in the game. Davis was 5-of -16 from the field and a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line in recording his second double-double of the season. He also added a team-high and season-high seven assists. Lamar Sanders added 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting and grabbed six rebounds. Brandon Chappell added 15 points off the bench on 5-of-8 shooting from 3-point range. Lamar shot 41.7 percent (25-of-60) from the field, 37.5 percent (9-of-24) from three-point range and 75 percent (12-of-16) from the free throw line. The Cardinals forced 20 turnovers, but were outrebounded 39-to-30. Almond led all scorers with 36 points after he entered the game ranked second in the NCAA in scoring at 29.3 ppg. Rice shot 45.3 percent (24-of-53) from the field, 60 percent (12-of-20) from 3-point range and 79.3 percent (23-of-29) from the free throw line.

10-Day Break Longest In Six Years
When the Cardinals take to the floor against Rice they will be playing their first game since the 88-66 loss at No. 25 BYU on Dec. 12 - a span of 10 days. The last time a Lamar squad had as long of a break came in Dec. 2001 when Mike Deane's charges had a 12-day break between road trips to Michigan State and Texas-Pan American. While the current layoff is lengthy, it's nothing compared to what Jack Martin did in the 1950s and 60s. He routinely gave his players 12-17 days off around the holidays, including a school-record 23 days from Dec. 15-Jan. 6 during the 1952-53 campaign.

BYU Leftovers
• Senior Lamar Sanders was the only Cardinal in double-figures with 11 points of 5-of-8 shooting from the field. He also grabbed five rebounds.
• Junior Kenny Dawkins scored nine points, grabbed five rebounds, dished out four assists and has two steals.
• Lamar shot just 38.1% (24-63) from the field and 27.8% (5-18) from 3-point range. The Cardinals were also outrebounded 50-to-34.

Big Scoring, Small Package
Junior Kenny Dawkins is all of 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, but he plays much bigger and has proven to be an explosive scorer for Lamar. He scored a season-high 22 points vs. Wyoming and tallied 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range, vs. Oral Roberts and led the team with 18 points at New Orleans (11/28/07). The Holly Springs, Miss. native led the team with 21 points vs. Louisiana College (12/8/07). He has led the team in scoring in five of the last six games. He is shooting 47.7% (41-86) from the field, 43.2% (19-44) from 3-point range and 90.3% (28-31) from the free throw line. He leads the team in scoring at 16.1 ppg and in assists with 31 (3.9 apg).

McThay Cracks Starting Lineup
After starting the season as point guard Kenny Dawkins' backup, junior Brandon McThay has worked his way into the starting lineup. Although he, and head coach Steve Roccaforte, credit his defense as the reason, McThay has taken the opportunity to showcase his scoring ability with the increased playing time. He has started the last three games and is averaging 11.7 ppg and 2.7 apg. He has also averaged 23.7 minutes in that stretch. In fact, with the exception of his four fouls in eight minutes at Northern Illinois, he has played at least 20 minutes in four of the last five contests.

Hopkins, Barrow, Todd Break Out of Shooting Slump
Seniors Darren Hopkins, Matthew Barrow and Currye Todd were all struggling from the field during the Cardinals five-game losing streak. Counted on for their perimeter scoring ability, the trio was shooting a combined 25.2% (28-of-11) from the field - Hopkins 11-of-46 (.239), Barrow 11-of-35 (.314) and Todd 6-of-30 (.200), and 22.2% (14-of-63) from three-point range - Hopkins 4-of-21 (.190), Barrow 8-of-30 (.267) and Todd 2-of-12 (.167). Over the last three games, those three are shooting a combined 45% (25-of-60) from the field - Todd (9-19), Barrow (8-18) and Hopkins (8-23) and 32.3% (10-of-31) from three-point range - Todd (4-10), Hopkins (3-11) and Barrow (3-10).

Double-Double Trouble
Junior Justin Nabors recorded the team's first double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds in his first regular season game in a Lamar uniform in the win over LeTourneau (11/13/07). Nabors recorded his second double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds at New Orleans (11/28/07). Senior Lamar Sanders, who led the team with 12 double-doubles last season, recorded his first double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds at Northern Illinois (12/1/07).

Lamar Part of Southland's TV Package
Lamar will play two games on Fox Sports Net - Southwest as part of the Southland Conference's package with the network. The Cardinals' game Feb. 16 at Texas State and the Feb. 28 game at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi will be televised on FSN-Southwest. Lamar has been a regular on the network with at least one game in each of the last five years.

Sanders, Hopkins Named to Preseason All-Southland Conference Teams
Seniors Lamar Sanders (Hickory Flat, Miss./Northwest Mississippi CC) and Darren Hopkins (Baltimore, Md./Panola JC) were both named to preseason All-Southland Conference teams. Sanders, who was a second-team all-SLC selection and SLC newcomer of the year last season, was named to the preseason all-SLC first-team. He averaged 12.2 ppg and 9.8 rpg, which led the SLC and ranked 12th in the NCAA. He shot 59.3% from the field and led the team with 103 assists. Hopkins, who was an honorable mention all-SLC selection last season, was named to the preseason all-SLC second-team. He is the team's leading returning scorer at 13.4 ppg and averaged 3.6 rpg. He shot a team-best 43.5% (67-154) from 3-point range, tied for second with 27 steals and was third in assists with 89.

Preseason Predictions
The Southland Conference split into two divisions for the first time in league history last season and the alignments will remain the same for the 2007-08 season. Lamar will compete in the East Division with Central Arkansas, McNeese State, Nicholls State, Northwestern State and Southeastern Louisiana. The West Division has Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Texas-Arlington, Texas-San Antonio and Texas State. Lamar was picked as the team to beat in the East Division in the preseason coaches' poll grabbing six first-place votes and 61 points. Defending East winner Northwestern State claimed five first-place votes and was second with 59 points, followed by McNeese State (1) with 48 points, SLU (32), Central Arkansas (25) and Nicholls State (21). Sam Houston State garnered eight first-place votes and was the overwhelming pick in the West Division with 63 points. Defending SLC regular-season and tournament champion TAMU-CC received one first-place vote and was second with 50 points. UTA grabbed two first-place votes and was third with 47 points, followed by SFA (1) with 40 points, UTSA (27) and Texas State (18). Each team will play the other members of its division twice, and the members of the other division once, three at home and three away, for a 16-game league schedule. The SLC Tournament format will include eight teams with the top two teams from each division automatically making the tournament, followed by the next four best conference records. The O'Reilly Auto Parts SLC Tournament will be March 13-16 at the Merrell Center in Katy. The championship game is schedule for Sunday, March 16 at 1 p.m. on ESPN2 with the winner getting the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

2007-08 Schedule
Second-year coach Steve Roccaforte has put together another challenging schedule for the Cardinals in 2007-08. Roccaforte's philosophy is to play games that will test his team early, which includes playing games against teams for the SEC, Conference USA, MAC and Mountain West conferences. Lamar opens the season Nov. 13 when LeTourneau University visits the Montagne Center. The Cardinals travel to Ole Miss (Nov. 16) before returning home for games against Wyoming (Nov. 19) and Oral Roberts (Nov. 24). Lamar hits the road for two straight at New Orleans (Nov. 28) and Northern Illinois (Dec. 1). The Cardinals return home for four of its next five games starting with St. Gregory's (Dec. 4) and Louisiana College (Dec. 8). After a trip to BYU (Dec. 12), Lamar closes out 2007 with games against Rice (Dec. 22) and Lyon College (Dec. 29). The Cardinals ring in the new year with a New Year's Day game at Texas Tech. Lamar closes out its non-conference schedule at home against Utah Valley State (Jan. 8). The Cardinals will play the other five East Division members twice and the six members of the West Division once, three home and three away, for a 16-game schedule. Lamar will play UTSA, Sam Houston State and Texas-Arlington at home and Stephen F. Austin, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Texas State on the road. The SLC Tournament format will still include eight teams with the top two teams from each division automatically making the tournament, followed by the next four best conference records. The O'Reilly Auto Parts SLC Tournament will be March 13-16 at the Merrell Center in Katy. The championship game is schedule for Sunday, March 11 at 1 p.m. on ESPN2 with the winner getting the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.



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