NEW ORLEANS — I’ll be the first to admit that I underestimated the New Orleans Privateers heading into Wednesday night’s match-up with the Lamar Cardinals.
All the Privateers did on Wednesday night was open the game on a 13-2 run and never trail over the course of the entire game. New Orleans never let Lamar get settled into a rhythm, forcing them to play catch-up all night long.
New Orleans had four different players score in double-figures, led by Makur Puou, who had a team-high 14 points. The Privateers held the Cardinals to just 16 points in the first half, and wouldn’t let Lamar get closer than four points in the second frame.
After not recording a win over a Division I opponent in non-conference play, the Privateers have now won three straight games to open Southland play. New Orleans led wire-to-wire in their 72-62 win over Lamar inside the Lakefront Arena.
Bryson Robinson and Travin Thibodeaux recorded 12 points and five rebounds apiece for the Privateers, while Robinson also dished out eight assists. Dionta Champion was the fourth player in double figures for New Orleans, recording 13 points of his own in the win.
Josh Nzeakor paced the attack for the Cardinals, scoring a game-high 15 points to go along with five rebounds. Zjori Bosha chipped in with 14 points, while Colton Weisbrod was held to just eight points in 35 minutes.
On the first possession of the game, Troy Green hit a three pointer for the Privateers to open the scoring. Joey Frenchwood responded with a two-point jumper on the Cardinals’ first possession, but New Orleans followed that up with a 10-0 run to pull ahead by 11 before Lamar would score again.
The lead reached as many as 14 points in the first half, and a layup from Puou with 2:14 to play in the frame gave the Privateers a 29-16 lead at the break.
Puou would open the second half with a second-chance jumper in the first 20 seconds of the frame, and the Privateers were threatening to run away with the game. Credit the Cardinals for continuing to fight and for making a game out of it as the second half moved along.
With 6:04 to play, James Harrison connected on a jumper that brought Lamar back to within four points, at 56-52. That was as close as they would get the rest of the way, as the Cardinals were unable to complete the comeback and take a lead of their own.
It was a balanced attack for the Privateers, who moved to 3-0 in conference play with a 72-62 win over Lamar.
With the win, and the results of other games across the conference on Wednesday night, New Orleans (6-8, 3-0) sits alone atop the standings. They are one of just two teams who remain undefeated in Southland Conference play. New Orleans will go for their fourth straight win on Saturday afternoon when they visit the McNeese State Cowboys.
The loss brought an end to the two game winning streak for Lamar (10-6, 2-1). They return home to take on the Central Arkansas Bears on Saturday in Beaumont, TX.
– T. Bennett