BEAUMONT, Texas – Despite shooting nearly 63 percent from the field, and getting a season-high 20 points from senior Amos Wilson, the Lamar Cardinals (1-7) could not overcome an Arkansas State team that was equal to the task. The Red Wolves shot 57 percent on their way to the 95-89 victory in the Montagne Center Saturday evening.
"We had three guys scoring tonight, and a couple of others who added eight or nine points," said head coach Pat Knight. "We had a couple others who didn't show up tonight that could have really helped out. We told them during one timeout not to take a shot off just one pass, unless it leads to a layup, and I thought that really helped us. When we moved the ball around 3-4 four times, they were having a hard time guarding us but then we started to fall into the way they were playing.
"I'm obviously not happy with a 1-7 record. We have some very talented guys, but we have to keep moving them in the right direction. This was a very good team that we played tonight, but we've got to get better. We now have two weeks to get focused on Tennessee Tech," added Knight.
The Cardinals found themselves down by 15 points with 6:18 remaining in the first half, but didn't allow the game to get away from them. Lamar relied on a hot first half of shooting, 17-of-28 (.607) to battle their way back into the contest before halftime. Led by Wilson, who scored 12 of his 20 points on 6-of-7 (.857) shooting in the first half, the Cards cut the lead down to seven, 42-35, with 2:53 remaining. Lamar continued to chip away at the lead and went into the locker room down only four, 47-43.
The Red Wolves opened the second half on a 19-4 run to push the lead to 19, 66-47, behind Melvin Johnson's 26 points¬ – on 8-of-9 three-point shooting – before the 13-minute mark. ASU would push its advantage to 21 points before the Cardinals would make another run.
Sophomore Rhon Mitchell scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half as the Cardinals cut the lead to 10 points with more than five minute remaining. Arkansas State managed to keep lead at double figures by answering a Lamar score with one of their own down the stretch. ASU finished the game shooting nearly 57 percent from the field, including a 13-of-26 (.500) performance from beyond the arc.
The Cardinals cut the deficit down to a three-possession game with 70 seconds remaining but Arkansas State hit four of this last five free throw attempts to keep the Cardinals at arms' length.
The Cardinals finished the night with a season-best 62.5 percent from the floor, including a 4-of-9 performance from beyond the arc. Lamar also took advantage of their opportunities from the free throw line, 15-of-20 (.750). Lamar forced Arkansas State into 11 turnovers which it converted into 16 points, while Lamar only turned the ball over 10 times.
Junior Nimrod Hilliard recorded the team's second double-double of the season. He scored 17 points, and dished out a career-high 14 assists. He is averaging 10.3 assists per game over the course of the team's past three games.
The Cardinals will have two weeks to prepare for Tennessee Tech. Lamar closes out the three-game homestand against the Golden Eagles Sunday Dec. 15th. The gameset to tip off at 2 p.m. from the Montagne Center.