KATY, Tex. — The last time that the Lamar Cardinals made the eight-team field at the Southland Conference tournament was back in the 2011-12 season. Following an 18-win regular season, the Cardinals earned a spot in this year’s field s the six-seed.
After a four-year hiatus, the Cardinals were looking to make the most of their trip to Katy, Texas.
On Wednesday night, they took on the Southeastern Louisiana Lions in the First Round of the conference tournament. Both teams earned a spot on the final week of the regular season, and were looking to make some noise down in Katy.
It was a tight affair right down to the wire, but Lamar pulled away over the final four minutes thanks in large part to their free throw shooting. The Cardinals went a combined 11-of-12 in the closing minutes from the charity stripe to seal the deal.
In their first trip to Katy since 2011-12, the Lamar Cardinals extended their stay with a 77-65 victory over Southeastern Louisiana in the First Round of the Southland Conference tournament.
A pair of free throws from Marcus Owens with 5:10 to play in the game restored a 10-point lead for the Cardinals. James Currington answered with a layup for the Lions, only to have the lead pushed back to 10 on the next possession by Dorian Chatman.
From there, the free throws started to add up for Lamar, as Southeastern Louisiana was forced to foul in an effort to close the gap. Unfortunately for the Lions, the Cardinals hit the vast majority of their free throws, keeping the margin at double digits.
Over the final four minutes, Lamar hit 11 of their 12 free throw attempts to close out the victory. The Cardinals held off the Lions, coming away with the 77-65 victory in their conference tournament opener.
None of the starters for Lamar scored in double figures. Colton Weisbrod had eight points and nine rebounds, while Josh Nzeakor led all Lamar starters with nine points.
Lamar got 44 points from their bench players, which was a key factor in the win. Nick Garth scored a game-high 17 points, on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor off the bench.
Sophomore guard Marlain Veal scored a team-best 16 points for Southeastern Louisiana, while also pulling down five rebounds and dishing out five assists.
Dimi Cook had 13 points off the bench in the loss.
With the win. the Lamar Cardinals (19-13) advance to the Second Round on Thursday, where they will take on the third seed Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks.
Following the loss, Southeastern Louisiana (16-16, 9-9) finish the year with an even-.500 record.
– T. Bennett