BEAUMONT, Texas –The Lamar Lady Cardinals needed a big play at a crucial time of Saturday's game against McNeese State. Like UPS, Gia Ayers delivered.
Ayers completed a four-point play with 10:39 remaining in the second half to give the Lady Cardinals the lead for good as they ran their winning streak to three games with a 72-58 victory over the Cowgirls in a Southland Conference women's basketball game.
Ayers drained a circus-like 3-pointer while being fouled by Jayln Johnson. Ayers hit the ensuing free throw to spark a 12-2 Lamar run to take control of the game for good. Ayers finished with a game-high 20 points for Lamar (8-7 overall, 3-1 Southland). Ayers added seven rebounds and a game-high five assists in the win.
"That's what we expect from Gia," Lamar coach Robin Harmony said. "Gia should build off of this game. The only person who can stop Gia is Gia."
McNeese State (9-6, 2-2) jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead, but Lamar scored 22 of the next 31 points to get right back in the game.
"I learned quickly how big of a rivalry this is," Harmony said. "McNeese State came out quickly and punched us in the mouth, but we're not going to let anyone come into our house and think it's going to be easy. I was proud of the way we fought back."
Ayers was far from a one-person team on Saturday. Shauna Long had 18 points for Lamar, while JaMeisha Edwards had 15 points in just 23 minutes while being plagued with foul trouble.
Lamar got contributions from Caroline Adesulu, who had a career-high eight rebounds, Alice Robinson, who had seven points and seven rebounds, and Dominique Edwards, who finished with seven points. It was just the second time this season Dominique Edwards was held to less than 10 points.
Lamar held a 39-31 rebounding edge over the taller Cowgirls. It was the second straight game, and just the third time all season that the Lady Cardinals outrebounded their opponent.
"Rebounding is heart," Harmony said. "It's boxing out and working hard. We did a good job of that."
Lamar did a good defensively, holding the Cowgirls to 34.4 percent shooting from the field (21-of-61), including just 20 percent (3-of-15) from 3-point range.
Lamar opens a four-game road swing at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at New Orleans. The Lady Cardinals are at Southeastern Louisiana on Jan. 18, Abilene Christian on Jan. 23 and Incarnate Word on Jan. 25 before returning home to host Southland Conference newcomer Houston Baptist at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 30.