PREVIEW: Lamar Cardinals Head on the Road for Conference Showdown at Central Arkansas

If Lamar wants to bounce back from a loss to New Orleans in their last outing, they will need to keep Jordan Howard under wraps, or else the Central Arkansas star could be the difference in the game.
If Lamar wants to bounce back from a loss to New Orleans in their last outing, they will need to keep Central Arkansas guard Jordan Howard under wraps on Saturday afternoon.

In today’s college basketball world, it’s rare to see a mid-major program excel with a roster that is full of underclassmen. Programs like the Kentucky Wildcats and the Duke Blue Devils make it look easy, but that’s because they are able to land the country’s top prospects year after year.

In 2015-16, the Lamar Cardinals are showing that even the smaller programs can put together a strong season with plenty of younger players in tow. Coming into Saturday afternoon, the Cardinals are looking for their 10th win of the season, and 2nd in conference play.

They are coming off a loss to the New Orleans Privateers in their last outing, and will be looking for a strong bounce-back performance.

If Lamar wants to reach double-digit wins, they will have to come away with a road win over a team who may only have 1 win to their name this season, but have one of the more underrated scorers on their roster. The Central Arkansas Bears will welcome the Cardinals to the Farris Center in Conway, AR, looking for their first conference win of the season. Despite their 1-11 record, the Bears have a trio of players who are capable of filling up the box score on a nightly basis.

The Lamar Cardinals will be in tough come Saturday, but have a great chance to come away with the win. Here’s everything you need to know about the match-up before tip-off between the Cardinals and Bears.

Game Notes

Time: 5:00pm EST

Location: Farris Center, Conway, AR

Spread: N/A

Lamar Cardinals (9-5, 1-1)

The loss to the Privateers in their last time didn’t come without a fight. Lamar fell behind by 8 after the first half, put brought the fight to the Privateers in the final 20 minutes. Despite the comeback push, the Cardinals committed 22 personal fouls and 28 turnovers in the game, and the writing was on the wall. It’s tough to win with that many turnovers, and the Cardinals full just short.

With a young team, growing pains and poor performances are going to happen. It’s something that teams can’t avoid, but it’s how they bounce back from an off-day that will shape the season moving forwards. With the performance against the Privateers firmly in the rear-view mirror, the Cardinals have a clean slate as they head to Conway, AR to take on the Bears.

Central Arkansas hasn’t performed well this season, and come in riding a lengthy losing streak. All signs point to a perfect night for a bounce-back performance, but they will need their stars to step up in a big way to come away victorious.

Against New Orleans, guard Kevin Booze committed 6 turnovers on the night, which is a bad representation of his overall talent on the hardwood. In 2015-16, the 5’10” sophomore is averaging 9.8 points and 4.3 assists per game, and just 2.5 turnovers per contest, making his 6 turnover game a bit of a head-scratcher. He is a strong three-point shooter, making 38.5% of his attempts from distance on the year. Booze is a great facilitator of the offense, and makes up one half of a strong point guard rotation that could be one of the best in the Southland Conference over the next couple of seasons.

The second star guard for the Cardinals is one of their star freshmen this season. Nick Garth, a 5’11” guard from Houston, TX, has been the Cardinals’ leading scorer this season, averaging 13.6 points per contest. Garth is the only player on the Cardinals who averages in double-figures per game, but they have 8 different players who are averaging at least 5 points per game this season. Their depth and balance on offense could be the key to victory against the Bears.

While the team as a whole is looking for a bounce-back game, freshman forward Dorian Chatman is looking for a rebound game from a personal level. In 12 minutes of action against New Orleans, he committed 4 personal fouls and went 0-of-4 from the field for 0 points. While he did register 5 rebounds and 3 blocks, it was a far cry from his 9.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game average on the year. Expect Chatman to rebound in a big way against the Bears.

Lamar will need their stars to put together a big game on offense to lead them to the win, but an emphasis will also be put on their defensive play as the Bears have a trio of talented players who can hurt them in many ways on offense.

Central Arkansas Bears (1-11, 0-2)

Simply put, the 2015-16 season hasn’t gone as planned for the Central Arkansas Bears. A three-game losing streak kicked off the year, and they come into Saturday’s game riding an 8-game losing streak. Their lone win came back in November, when they took down the UT-San Antonio Roadrunners by topping the 90-point plateau in their 98-84 victory.

Since then, the positives have been few and far between for the Bears. Three of their losses in their current losing streak have been by 10 points or less, so they have been competitive on some nights. On others, they have been severely out-matched, like in their back-to-back blowout losses at the hands of the Oklahoma Sooners and the Pittsburgh Panthers. Despite the negatives, Central Arkansas has a great chance to pull off a big conference win against Lamar.

To do so, they will need their version of the Big 3 to step up and carry the team on offense. The trio of Jordan Howard, Justin Foreman, and Derreck Brooks will need to put up some big offensive numbers to push the Bears to victory in front of their home crowd.

Jordan Howard is one of the most underrated scoring guards in the entire NCAA, and he doesn’t quite get the attention that he deserves. The 5’11” sophomore guard out of Chandler, AZ is averaging a team-best 17.3 points per contest to go along with 3.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per contest. Howard is coming off a 36-point effort in the Bears’ last game against the Texas A&M-CC Islanders, and is averaging 20.5 points over his last four contests. Howard is the undisputed leader of the Bears on offense, and he will look to keep his strong play rolling. If he can get hot from long distance (43.8% on the year), the Bears can keep pace with the Cardinals.

Howard’s talent are without question, and the offense will run through him. That means the game could come down to the play of both Brooks and Foreman for the Bears. Brooks is a 6’6” senior guard who is averaging 10.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest, while Foreman is a 6’6” senior forward who is averaging 10.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. Both can line up on the wing, and have the shooting abilities to spread the floor and take some pressure off of Howard.

With tons of talent on both sides of the floor, this game could go down to the wire, regardless of the team’s records coming into the game.

Players to Watch

Lamar Cardinals

Nick Garth (G) – 13.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.6 apg

Dontavious Sears (F) – 8.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.0 apg

Dorian Chatman (F) – 9.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg

Central Arkansas Bears

Jordan Howard (G) – 17.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.8 apg

Derreck Brooks (G) – 10.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.1 bpg

Jeff Lowery (G) – 6.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.0 spg

The Southland Conference has been dominated by the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks over the past few seasons, and that could be an understatement. This season, the conference race is much more wide open, and several teams are back in the race for conference supremacy.

Lamar is looking for a big bounce-back win after their comeback fell short in their last game against New Orleans, while Central Arkansas is looking to put an end to their lengthy losing streak and score their first conference victory of the year.

Turn your attention to Conway, Arkansas on Saturday afternoon for a big-time Southland Conference tilt.

– T.B.