KATY, Texas – Lamar University struggled to find its rhythm offensively and dropped a 75-59 decision to No. 3-seed Stephen F. Austin Thursday evening in the second round of the Southland Conference Championships from the Merrell Center in Katy, Texas. The sixth-seeded Cardinals end the season with a 19-14 (.576) overall record.
Despite their exit from the Southland tournament, the youthful Cardinals are a program on the rise improving by eight wins from last season and making their first appearance in the conference tournament since the 2011-12 season.
The Cardinals finished the night shooting 39 percent from the field, including nine three-pointers. The Cardinals took advantage of SFA’s 18 turnovers by converting them into 23 points. LU was led by 14 points from junior Torey Noel and 11 from classmate Joey Frenchwood.
SFA shot better than 50 percent from the field (25-of-46), and was 20-of-25 (.800) from the free throw line. The Lumberjacks also won the battle of the boards, 33-19. SFA was led by 19 points from Leon Gilmore and 14 from Ivan Canete.
“We played a very good basketball tonight,” said LU head coach Tic Price. “Those guys have been battled tested over the past couple years and they play like a championship team. They did an outstanding job of defending us. They took us out of our sets tonight. The mark of a good team, defensively, is keeping an opponent from running the things they are used to running in practice. SFA accomplished that tonight.”
Frenchwood recorded a steal on SFA’s first possession but the Lumberjacks responded by scoring the game’s next seven points. SFA started the game knocking down five of its first six attempts, and eight of first 12 to lay claim to a seven point advantage, 18-11, less than 8:30 into the contest.
While the ‘Jacks were setting the nets on fire LU started the game at the other end of the spectrum. Big Red opened the night one of its first six and five of its first 13, including a 1-of-6 (.167) start on three-pointers. The Cardinals quickly found themselves facing a double-digit deficit, 21-11, nearly midway through the half when the offense started clicking.
The Cardinals ended SFA’s run by knocking down threes on three of their next four possessions to pull within a point, 21-20, with more than nine minutes remaining. LU got triples from Noel, senior Marcus Owens and junior Christian Albright during the run. Unfortunately, the Cards were unable to continue the momentum as SFA responded with a Gilmore and-one.
The three-point play sparked a 13-0 run to build a 14-point advantage, 34-20, before Frenchwood could provide temporary relief with a three ball. Unfortunately, the ‘Jacks closed the half on an 18-5 run as LU could muster just two Frenchwood free throws for the remainder of the half.
SFA took a 39-25 advantage into the intermission after shooting nearly 63 percent from the field, including 4-of-6 (.667) from beyond the arc, and a 5-of-5 performance from the stripe. The designated home team also won the battle on the boards in the opening half with a 15-9 advantage.
The Cardinals were held to nine field goals (.360) in the opening 20 minutes, and a 5-of-14 (.357) effort from long range. The Cardinals made good use of SFA’s nine turnovers in the first 20 minutes with an 11-5 advantage in points off turnovers.
It was a similar story in the second half as the ‘Jacks converted on three of their first four possessions, while LU was 3-of-8 from the field. LU could get no closer than 14 points in the second half as the Lumberjacks advanced on to the semifinals.