BEAUMONT, Tex. — In 2016-17, the Southland Conference isn’t quite what it used to be. With the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks not being as dominant as in the past, the door is open for other teams to contend atop the standings.
The likes of the New Orleans Privateers, who currently sit atop the Southland standings, and Houston Baptist Huskies have the look of a true contender this season, at least on paper, while there are others who are flying under the radar.
One of those teams calls Beaumont, Texas home. The Lamar Cardinals entered Wednesday’s action with a 10-6 record overall, and were 2-1 in conference action. They welcomed the Incarnate Word Cardinals to town, looking to extend their winning streak to a modest two games.
Incarnate Word, on the other hand, were looking to rebound from an 87-72 loss to the Privateers in their previous outing.
Ironically, history would repeat itself on Wednesday, and not in a good way for the visitors.
Lamar never trailed in the contest, and they handed Incarnate Word their second straight defeat, in the form of an identical 87-72 decision.
To open the game, the teams traded baskets, and the score was tied up at 4-all with 18:48 still on the clock.
That was the last time the game would be tied, and Lamar started to take over.
They drew first blood in the game, and never trailed on the night. Junior Colton Weisbrod scored the first four points of the game for the Cardinals, and had eight points before the first media timeout.
Incarnate Word would get to within one, at 14-13, but were never able to take a lead of their own on the night. After Tyler Singleton hit a three to get the visitors within a single point, Lamar reeled off a 9-0 run to extend their lead to double-figures, capped off by a three ball from Joey Frenchwood.
Lamar’s lead would reach as many as 14 points in the first half, and they took a 12-point cushion into the break.
Simi Socks hit two free throws to open the scoring in the second half, getting Incarnate Word to within 10 points, but Lamar quickly answered and pushed their lead back to 12 momentarily.
Incarnate Word was able to cut the deficit down to six points with plenty of time on the clock, but Lamar wouldn’t relinquish their lead. With 13:24 to play in the game, Weisbrod hit one of two free throws to give Lamar an 18-point lead, their biggest of the night at that point.
Incarnate Word answered with a 9-0 run of their own, highlighted by three pointers from Socks and Shawn Johnson, but Lamar fired right back. Whenever they were challenged, Lamar always seemed to have a timely response.
Down the stretch, the home side was never really threatened, and they had a firm grasp on their lead from the outset of the contest. When all was said and done, Lamar topped Incarnate Word in the battle of the Cardinals, 87-72.
It was another impressive showing for Colton Weisbrod. He recorded a game-high 26 points to go along with 13 rebounds for his third double-double in his last five contests.
Joey Frenchwood added 21 points of his own, on 7-of-10 shooting, and Nick Garth chipped in with 16 points in the win.
All five starters for Incarnate Word scored in double-figures in a losing effort. Tyler Singleton scored a team-best 17 points, while Shawn Johnson added 16 points.
With the win, the Lamar Cardinals (11-6, 3-1) are just one game behind New Orleans for top spot in the Southland Conference. They will look to take another step forward on Saturday, when they head out on the road to take on the Abilene Christian Wildcats.
On the flip side, it was the second straight loss for the Incarnate Word Cardinals (6-10, 1-4), and both game by an 87-72 decision. The Cardinals will look to get back on track on Saturday, when they return home to take on the Houston Baptist Huskies.
– T. Bennett