HOUSTON, Tex. — It’s rare to see a team shoot above 50% on the road and come up short on the scoreboard, but that’s what happened for the Lamar Cardinals on Saturday.
Coming into Saturday’s Southland Conference tilt with the Houston Baptist Huskies, the Cardinals were riding a three-game winning streak, and were trending upwards in the conference standings. Lamar had won all three games at home to close out their season-high four game home stand at 3-1, but were on the road to take on the Huskies.
Houston Baptist came into the day riding a win streak of their own, a modest two-game stretch that saw them score a win at home and one on the road. They were looking to move over the .500 mark in conference play on Saturday, which was ‘Retro Night’ in Houston.
The Huskies held a sizable 16-point lead after the opening half, but the Cardinals made the home side work for the win in the second. Lamar shot a combined 56.1% from the field, but the Huskies used a balanced attack on offense to thwart the Cardinals’ comeback efforts.
All five starters for Houston Baptist scored in double figures, and the Huskies notched their third straight win with a 94-87 victory over Lamar.
Houston Baptist led for most of the first half. Braxton Bonds gave the Huskies a 15-14 lead with a layup at the 12:11 mark of the first half. While it was still early in the game, the home side wouldn’t trail the rest of the way.
That doesn’t mean Lamar would concede the win. The Cardinals still made the Huskies earn the victory in the second half.
A pair of free throws from Asa Cantwell in the closing seconds of the first half gave the Huskies a 44-28 lead at the break. They would stretch their lead to as many as 21 points early in the second half, thanks to a jumper from Reveal Chukwujekwu with 17:01 to play in the game.
As the game ticked on, Lamar continued to fight. A three from Zjori Bosha with just over six minutes to play cut the deficit down to 12 points, at 74-62. However, they were unable to cut the deficit down to single digits until the final minute, when Bosha hit another three pointer to get Lamar within nine points with 36 seconds left on the clock.
In the end, the Huskies held on for the 94-87 victory over Lamar, extending their winning streak to three games in the process.
Lamar outshot the Huskies on the afternoon, as they made five more field goals than Houston Baptist, and eight more jumpers from three point range. However, the Huskies won the game at the free throw line, going a combined 35-of-43 from the line in comparison to just 10-of-14 for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals shot 56.1% (32-of-57) from the field and 46.4% (13-of-28) from three point range, while the Huskies shot 49.1% (27-of-55) from the floor and 41.7% (5-of-12) from beyond the arc.
It was a balanced scoring attack that led the way for Houston Baptist. Six players scored in double-figures on the day, including all five starters. Josh Ibarra (17 points, 12 rebounds), and Reveal Chukwujekwu (15 points, 10 rebounds) paced the offense.
Colter Lasher scored a team-high 20 points, while Braxton Bonds finished with 12 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and 4 steals.
Not to be outdone, five players scored in double-figures for the Cardinals in a losing effort. Nick Garth came off the bench to score a game-high 24 points, and went 6-of-11 from three point range in the process. Zjori Bosha finished the game with 11 points.
Josh Nzeakor led all Lamar starters with 14 points on the day.
With the win, the Houston Baptist Huskies (11-12, 7-6) are back above .500 in conference play, and sit just a half-game behind Lamar in the Southland standings. They will look to extend their winning streak to four games on Thursday night when they face the Sam Houston State Bearkats.
The loss brought an end to a three-game win streak for the Lamar Cardinals (15-10, 7-5), who remain in a tie for fourth in the standings. They continue their four game road trip with a date against the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks on Thursday.
Houston Baptist and Lamar square off again on February 25th in Beaumont, Texas.
– T. Bennett