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Lamar hangs on to top McNeese 64-56

The Cardinals return to action Wednesday when they host UIW. The game against the Cardinals will tip off at 7 p.m. from the Montagne Center.

BEAUMONT, Texas — Senior Avery Sullivan scored 18 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead Lamar University to a 64-56 victory over rival McNeese Saturday afternoon at the Montagne Center. The victory moves Big Red to 4-11 overall and 2-4 in Southland Conference play.

"Our guys did a really good job of paying attention to the scouting report," said LU head coach Tic Price. "We knew their guys would attack the glass and play through contact. Our guys understood we were playing a rival and it was going to be an intense game. We knew we had to play for 40 minutes and I thought our guys answered the call today."

The Cardinals finished the night shooting 38 percent from the field, but that number dropped in the second half after opening the game 15-of-29 (.517). The Cardinals knocked down five triples Saturday but four of those also came in the opening 20 minutes of action. The Red and White also took advantage of their opportunities from the free throw line converting 13-of-15 (.867). LU outrebounded their guests, 40-36.

LU did significant damage when they could get out and run with the basketball scoring 27 point in transition, while holding McNeese to 12 fast break points.

Senior Davion Buster gave the Cardinals a huge lift off the bench scoring 17 points, including four three-pointers. Twelve of his 17 came in the opening half when he sparked a run that saw LU reclaim the lead and never look back. Sophomore David Muoka finished the night with 6 points and 11 rebounds, while freshman Kasen Harrison added 13 points.

McNeese finished the night converting 20-of-56 (.357) attempts, including seven three-pointers, but the Southland's top scoring offense was kept off balance due to LU's defense. The Cardinals forced McNeese into 12 turnovers and blocked four shots to limit the Cowboys to their second-lowest output of the season (Nebraska held McNeese to 55 points in the season opener). The Cowboys' Carlos Rosario led the visitors with 14.

The Cowboys took a three-point lead, 17-14, with 12:35 remaining in the opening half, when LU rattled off a 10-0 run to take a seven-point lead, 24-17, with less than eight remaining. LU's run didn't happen quickly. The Cardinals got stops on one end of the floor and worked the clock on the other end killing off five minutes of game time. After consecutives McNeese baskets got the Cowboys back within three, LU opened up the offense.

The Cardinals rattled off an 11-3 run sparked by an Ellis Jefferson steal which led to a Buster three to take their first double-digit lead of the game, 35-24. Big Red stayed on the attack pushing their lead to as many as 14 points heading into the locker room.

LU opened the second half seeking the knockout punch but that would never come. After shooting better than 50 percent in the opening 20 minutes, the Cardinals misfired on their first four possessions and McNeese trimmed the lead down to five points less than three minutes into the half. The lead was trimmed to three moments later on two A.J. Lawson free throws before the Cardinals responded.

LU got consecutive baskets from Buster and Sullivan to push the lead back to seven points. The Cardinals managed to get the lead back to nine points in the second half, but it never got back to double digits as McNeese managed to keep things interesting. Trailing by six with less than five minutes to play, the Cowboys got a three-pointer from Dru Kuxhausen to trim the lead down to just four points.

The Cardinals got two offensive rebounds on the next possession which led to a Sullivan stick back to give LU a six-point lead with four to play. The Cardinals wouldn't score again until an Anderson Kopp free throw with nine seconds remaining, but it wouldn't matter as Big Red's defense didn't allow a McNeese field goal for the final 4:45 of the contest.

"We knew the last eight minutes of the second half we were going to have to win the four-minute segments between the media timeouts," said Price. "Also, we needed to make stops. With Feazell, we knew they wanted to go to him so we started doubling him, to force him to give up the ball. I thought Davion Buster did a good job of guarding Kuxhausen. We made our free throws when in it counted and that was huge. We also held them to 35 percent."

The Cardinals return to action Wednesday when they host UIW. The game against the Cardinals will tip off at 7 p.m. from the Montagne Center. It will be broadcast live on Newstalk 560 KLVI and streamed live on ESPN+.

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