NATCHITOCHES, La. — Fans of the Lamar Cardinals have been waiting patiently for a few years for their team to become a factor in the Southland Conference.
Some thought it would be last season when the Cardinals opened the season with an 8-4 record in non-conference action. However, they struggled mightily in Southland play, finishing the season at 11-19 overall, and 3-15 in conference action.
This season has been a different story, as the Cardinals have kept themselves at or above the .500 clip for the entire year.
On Wednesday night, the Cardinals were looking to clinch their first winning season since 2012. They had their hands full, however, as they were on the road to take on the Northwestern State Demons.
Senior guard Zeek Woodley was making his return to the lineup for the Demons after sustaining a broken wrist earlier in the year, which forced him to miss eight weeks of action. His return gave Northwestern State some extra motivation, but it wouldn’t be enough against the Cardinals.
NORMAL, Ill. — Paris Lee made it clear on Sunday: He was not losing on Senior Night.
“I love our fans. They come out and support us and show us love,” said the Illinois State senior from Maywood, Illinois. “I can’t lose on Senior Night.”
The Redbirds, in a defensive struggle, finished the regular season a perfect 15-0 at home by defeating Southern Illinois, 50-46. Senior Tony Wills netted 16 points while sophomore Phil Fayne recorded his third career double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds.
“[We] had big plays down the stretch, again,” said Illinois State head coach Dan Muller, who captured his 100th career win in the process. “Our defensive numbers were great. It’s pretty cool to be a part of the first team to go undefeated in Redbird Arena history.”
WICHITA, Kan. — They’re back and the whole Missouri Valley Conference is watching.
One day after being ranked in the Coaches’ Poll for a fifth consecutive season, the Wichita State Shockers extended their winning streak to 11 games defeating Evansville, 109-83. Shaq Morris’ 18 points led six Shockers who scored in double-figures.
“Obviously it’s a big night,” said Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall. “I don’t know if we have ever scored 109 against a defense that good. I don’t know if we have scored 109 period.”
Evansville led for 69 seconds. The Purple Aces had leads at 4-2 and 7-5 during the opening three minutes.
Arch Madness, also known as the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, is just 11 days away, but before the action heads to St. Louis, Illinois State and Loyola had business to settle at Redbird Arena.
And, the action did not disappoint.
Concluding the season series between two of Illinois’ best, the Redbirds fended off the pesky Ramblers, 65-63. A pair of Deontae Hawkins free throws gave Illinois State the lead prior to Ben Richardson’s half court heave rimming out at the horn.
“I feel lucky that we won, to be honest,” said Illinois State head coach Dan Muller. “Obviously, one inch or another and we don’t win.
“We got to start playing better.”
A sea of 8,052 was rocking from the tip. Surged by six from senior Deontae Hawkins, Illinois State flew out to an 8-2 lead.
POCATELLO, ID. — The 2016-17 season hasn’t been too kind to the Idaho State Bengals, especially after how they fared a season ago.
The arrival of guard Ethan Telfair last year changed the fortunes for the Bengals, and they vaulted up into fourth spot in the Big Sky standings. Entering this year, the Bengals were a trendy pick in the race for the Big Sky crown, but they have been unable to build off the momentum they created last season.
On Thursday night, Idaho State welcomed the North Dakota Fighting Hawks to town. A win over North Dakota would give the Bengals a big boost of momentum heading into the conference in just a couple of weeks.
While the Bengals would hold a slim lead early on, the Fighting Hawks would pull away as the opening half ticked away. After taking a seven-point lead into the break, North Dakota wouldn’t trail in the second half.
PRINCESS ANNE, Md. — Little did we know at the start of the season, but the race for the MEAC crown is shaping up to be one of the more exciting ones in the country.
Heading into Monday’s action, as many as eight teams looked to have a realistic shot at the title. Some teams have stronger chances than others, but anything can happen on any given night. While only one team had a winning record overall on the year, the level of parity in the league from one through ten is what makes the race that enticing.
Down in Princess Anne on Monday, two teams that were looking to move up in the standings squared off. The Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks were looking to stay in the top half of the standings, while the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats were looking to play spoiler and move up the standing themselves.
The Wildcats got hot towards the end of the first half and took a five point lead into the break. In the second, the Hawks fought their way back into the game, and forced overtime.