LAKE CHARLES, La. – Junior Colton Weisbrod scored 32 points to lead Lamar University to a 90-83 victory at McNeese Saturday afternoon in Burton Coliseum. The victory assured Big Red of its first series sweep of McNeese since the 1993-94 season.
The Cardinals (18-13/10-8 Southland) will be the league’s No. 6 seed in the Southland Conference Championships beginning Wednesday in Katy, Texas. It’s the Cardinals’ first trip to the Southland Championships since the 2011-12 season.
Weisbrod was one of four Cardinals to finish the day in double-digits for a team that shot better than 50 percent (31-of-55/.564) from the field, including an 8-of-18 (.444) performance from beyond the arc. LU also outrebounded their hosts, 32-24.
LU got a tremendous lift from its bench outscoring McNeese’s reserves, 31-14. Sophomore Nick Garth scored 14 points, while junior Christian Albright scored a career-high 10 points and pulled down five rebounds.
Junior Joey Frenchwood scored 12 points, on 5-of-6 shooting, and dished out five assists in a victorious effort.
“It is always a good feeling to beat your rivals,” said LU head coach Tic Price. “We knew coming into this game that McNeese is a much better team than their record indicates. We knew this game would be a playoff type atmosphere. I have to give credit to McNeese. They could have quit in the first half but they dug in and kept fighting. We really had to work to get this win today. I thought we had some kids really step up this afternoon.”
McNeese recovered from a slow start to shoot nearly 54 percent for the game (29-of-54), but struggled from beyond the arc. The Cowboys could manage just a 5-of-17 (.294) effort from three-point range. McNeese had four players in double-figures led by Jamaya Burr’s 21 points.
The Cardinals exploded out of the gate knocking down nine of their first 10 shots, including their first three triples, to build a 13-2 advantage. Junior Lincoln Davis picked up where he left off Thursday evening scoring the game’s first-five points.
While the Cardinals were setting the nets ablaze on one end of the floor, McNeese was ice cold on the other end. The Cowboys connected on just one of their first five allowing Big Red to push its advantage to 14 points, 18-4, before the Cowboys settled down converting six of their next 11 attempts.
LU watched its lead get trimmed to 10 points midway through the half before going on a 28-17 run to push its lead to 21 points behind Weisbrod’s 19 first-half points. The Cardinals led 51-30 with 1:31 remaining in the half, but that’s when McNeese began chipping away at the lead. McNeese trimmed the lead to 52-35 heading into the locker room.
The Cardinals shot 66 percent in the opening half (19-of-29), and 6-of-9 (.667) from three-point range while outrebounding McNeese by 10, 19-9. LU also forced the Cowboys into eight turnovers which Big Red converted into 10 points.
Despite the slow start, McNeese finished the half 14-of-28 (.500) from the field.
The second half was a completely different story as the Cowboys opened the half on a 15-3 run to pull within five, 55-50. The Cowboys surge was aided by LU’s 1-of-6 start to the half. McNeese responded by knocking down seven of its first 13.
The Cowboys pulled to within three points, 59-56, with 10:30 minutes remaining when Garth buried a three-pointer from the left side to temporarily restore order. From that point on it became a game of punch counter-punch. Whatever the Cardinals did on one end of the floor, the Cowboys answered on the other.
The Cardinals created some space momentarily following a miss from Kalob LeDoux on a long three, LU got a tough basket from Marcus Owens in the paint. Owens’ basket gave LU a six-point lead, 70-64, but McNeese immediately got the game back to a single possession, 75-72.
LU was able to push the lead to seven points, 83-76, when Albright stepped to the line with 1:34 remaining. Albright hit both free throws to give LU a nine-point lead. The Cards forced a turnover on the other end of the floor which led to a Frenchwood layup. The Cowboys responded with a three-pointer from Burr but it wasn’t enough as LU took care of business from the free throw line in the second half (12-of-16).
“This was a fun game to watch for the fans,” said Price. “I’m happy for our fans. This is a great rivalry, and our fans always want to beat McNeese. We had a lot of people make the trip east on I-10 to support us.”
The Cardinals will return to action Wednesday evening when they open the 2017 Southland Conference Championships against No. 7 seed Southeastern Louisiana. The game against the Lions will tip off at 7:30 p.m. from the Merrell Center in Katy, Texas.