Lamar Beats McNeese State for First Southland Tournament Title Since 2000 - Mar 10, 2012
Two weeks ago, Lamar coach Pat Knight called out his program. Message sent. The Cardinals affirmed they heard Knight crystal clear on Saturday, unloading a 14-0 first half run on McNeese that laid the foundation to a 70-49 win that placed them into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2000. 'I told these guys right at my press conference that the reason I took (the job) was because of them,' said Knight, who turned a program that had gone 11-30 in conference play the previous three seasons into a 23-11 squad that will enter the tournament with six consecutive wins. 'I thought we could win right away.' Much has been made of Knight's postgame comments following a February 22 loss to Stephen F. Austin, in which he said his seniors were 'stealing money by being on scholarship.' While the comments gained national attention, it was the response of his team which spoke loudest. 'It's these guys stepping up,' said Knight. 'The rant was to try to get them motivated. I thought they were tough enough to take it. If I had team full of soft kids or if I were teaching in a big school, I would have had a revolt.' Lamar did revolt on Saturday, staking their claim on the tournament title after McNeese (17-15) jumped out to an 8-2 lead with 15:45 left in the first half. The deficit served as another light under the collective ends of the Cardinals, who opened the contest by missing 10 of their first 13 shots. Led by the backcourt of tournament most valuable player Mike James (6'1''-G-90), and all-tourney members Devon Lamb (6'2''-G-87) and Anthony Miles (6'0''-G-89), the Cardinals proceeded to slowly take the momentum away from the Cowboys, who were undermanned in the post with the absence of Daniel Richard (6'9''-C-89) (dehydration) and Rudy Turner (6'9''-C-88) (shoulder). 'It changed the complexity,' said McNeese coach Dave Simmons . 'To win a game like this, you have been inside, and we couldn't get to the foul line.' The presence of Osas Ebomwonyi (6'11''-C-91) also altered the Cowboys' plans inside. The 6-foot-11 sophomore came off the bench and recorded six blocks to go along with nine points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes. 'The kid can defend,' said Knight. 'He really changed the game for us.' Lamar took control of the glass and took the lead for good on a basket from Lamb that made it 16-15 with 7:49 in the half. The basket helped usher in a 21-2 run that turned a 13-8 deficit into a 29-15 edge that the Cards never relinquished. As has been their theme throughout the tournament, Lamar's defense set the stage for victory, as the Cardinals held McNeese (17-15) to a paltry 31 percent from the field while holding league player of the year Patrick Richard (6'4''-G/F-90) to a 4-for-20 afternoon. Despite their shooting woes, the Cowboys opened the second half with an 11-2 run that brought them within 35-33 at the 15:29 mark. They would come no closer as Lamar responded with a 22-6 run that James (26 points, nine rebounds) capped off with a pair of baskets that put the game and the bleak memories away for the Cardinals. 'We did it,' said Miles (eight points, eight rebounds). 'I couldn't ask for anything more.' Lamar is 5-5 in NCAA tournament play, with the school's last win coming in 1983 when the 11th seeded Cardinals shocked sixth-seed Alabama in the opening round. For the second consecutive season, McNeese was denied a chance to join their women's team into the NCAA tournament, leaving the 1997 men's and women's teams from Texas State as the only school to pull off the feat. Patrick Richard and Dontae Cannon (6'1''-G-91) were chosen to the all-tournament team for McNeese.
Courtesy of Southland
Southland Conf. Tournament Final: Lamar - McNeese State 70-49 Southland Conf. Tournament Semifinals: Lamar - Stephen F. Austin 55-44 McNeese State - UT Arlington 92-72
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