(By: James Dixon, Lamar Athletics) BEAUMONT, Texas – For the second time in three games Lamar University rallies to force a game into overtime, and for the second time Big Red comes up just short as they dropped a 78-71 decision to New Orleans Wednesday at the Montagne Center. The loss marked the team’s first home setback of the season.
“We matched up with a very tough, physical team tonight,” said LU head coach Tic Price. “I thought we did a decent job of matching their effort, but we didn’t pass the toughness test to close the game out. I’m proud of how the guys fought back. We had some opportunities but missed some key free throws, and at the other end of the floor we would make a stop defensively but not close out with the rebound.”
The Cardinals (8-8/1-2 SLC) were 22-of-59 (.373) from the field but could never find the range from beyond the arc knocking down just 3-of-14 (.214) attempts on the night. LU outrebounded their guests by two, 41-39, but the key rebounds seem to elude LU down the stretch. The Cardinals struggled to hold on the basketball in the opening half with 11 turnovers and finished the night with 20 which led to 21 UNO points.
LU managed to hang in the game in the opening half due to their solid shooting at the free throw line knocking down 11-of-13 attempts (.846), but that escaped LU late in the game as the Red and White finished the night converting just 13 of their final 26.
The Cardinals finished the game with three players in double figures, including two who recorded a double-doubles (Christian Barrett and Josh Nzeakor). Barrett got the start Wednesday and recorded his best performance in an LU uniform with 16 points and game-high 12 rebounds. Nzeakor overcame double and triple teams to add 14 and 11. Junior Laquarious Paige came off the bench to score 16 points and record four steals.
The Privateers were led by 22 points from Ezekiel Charles. He was one of three UNO players in double figures.
UNO scored the first five points of the game and jumped out to 20-9 lead midway through the first half. The lead was extended to 14 points less than two minutes later and remained a double-digit advantage for the majority of the half.
The Cardinals mounted a surge in the closing moments of the half to go into the locker room down just five, 34-29. Trailing by 12 with 2:43 remaining, the Cardinals scored the final seven points of the half, including two baskets in the final 23 seconds, the last one coming on a steal from Paige at half court with three seconds on the clock. Paige sprinted to the basket and scored just before the buzzer sounded.
New Orleans attempted to regain the momentum early in the second pushing their lead back to 11 with 16:10 remaining, but it was at that point that the Cards began chipping away at the lead. The Cardinals finally pulled even at the 6:23 mark on a Paige three-ball. LU followed with free throws from Nzeakor and V.J. Holmes to take a two-point lead, 54-52, just moments later.
The lead was still two when the Privateers sent Paige to the free throw line with 19 seconds remaining. Unfortunately, both attempts missed the mark and UNO answered with a follow-up basket from Charles on the other end of the floor with 1.6 seconds remaining to force overtime.
In the overtime, UNO once again found the hot hand knocking down 3-of-5 attempts and a near perfect 11-of-13 (.750) from the free throw line. The Cardinals finished the extra five minutes 3-of-9 from the field.
The Cardinals return to action Saturday when they travel to Conway, Ark., to take on Central Arkansas. The game against the Bears will tip off at 3 p.m. from the Farris Center.