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.
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.
HUNTSVILLE, Tex. — With the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks not as dominant as we’ve seen in recent seasons, the Southland Conference is as wide open as ever. Several teams look like they have a shot at representing the conference in the NCAA Tournament, at least on paper.
One team who has been in contention on a consistent basis, but unable to break through due to the Lumberjacks reigning supreme in the conference, has been the Sam Houston State Bearkats. They are regularly in contention for the title, but haven’t been able to advance to the Big Dance.
They’ve made three straight appearances in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, compiling a record of 2-3 over the last three seasons.
On Thursday, the Bearkats welcomed another conference title hopeful to town. The Lamar Cardinals have shown flashes of being able to contend for the conference crown this season, but other times have looked like they’re another year from truly being a contender.
ABILENE, Tx. — Payten Ricks may only be a freshman, but over the past three games, he isn’t playing like it’s his first year in the NCAA.
Coming into Saturday’s tilt with the Lamar Cardinals, the Abilene Christian Wildcats‘ freshman guard has averaged 12 points per contest, and he put up a career-high 15 points against the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks last week.
Against the Cardinals, the Wildcats were looking to avoid a 1-5 start in Southland Conference play, and they found themselves in a fight with Lamar that came down to the wire. With under 10 seconds to play, the Wildcats had a chance to win the game, avoiding an extra five-minute the frame.
The ball was in the hands of Ricks.
With the clock ticking down, Ricks put up a half-court heave that beat the buzzer. It banked off the back board, fell for his only three pointer, and the Wildcats stunned the Cardinals.
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.
BEAUMONT, Texas — After suffering their first loss of conference play to the New Orleans Privateers in their last outing, a four-point defeat in overtime, the Lamar Cardinals were out to make it a distant memory.
Thanks to Colton Weisbrod and Zjori Bosha, the Cardinals held down their home court in convincing fashion.
Weisbrod entered the game as the team’s leading scorer, averaging just under 15 points per contest as a junior college transfer. Against the Southeastern Louisiana Lions on Saturday afternoon, he had the best game of his young, but impressive, Division I career.
The junior finished the game shooting 14-of-19 from the field, and 6-of-7 from the line, recording a career-high 34 points in the process. To put his performance into perspective, no other Lamar player scored more than nine points on the night (Torey Noel).