Red-hot Cardinals hosting UNO

Published 7:42 am Thursday, January 5, 2017

BEAUMONT, Texas – Protecting a season-best four-game win streak, the Lamar University Cardinals prepare to open a three-game homestand as one of five teams without a loss in Southland Conference play. The Cardinals will begin the homestand Thursday when the New Orleans Privateers come to the Montagne Center.

Winners in five of their last six games, the Cardinals (9-5/1-0 Southland) got the conference portion of its schedule out to a positive start Monday evening in Conway, Ark., by defeating Central Arkansas, 78-75. The Cardinals overcame some early turnovers and struggles from the free throw line (7-18/.389) to pick up the victory in their league opener. Big Red was able to overcome the miscues with consistent shooting and hard work on the glass. Led by double-doubles from junior Colton Weisbrod and sophomore Josh Nzeakor, the Cardinals shot nearly 50 percent from the field and better than 40 percent from three-point range, while outrebounding UCA by 10.

The Privateers (7-6/2-0 SLC) have been one of the league’s many early season surprises. UNO is out to a perfect start during conference play and has won three consecutive heading into the Thursday evening contest. After opening conference play with a nine-point victory over Abilene Christian prior to the start of the New Year, the Privateers returned to the court two nights later to defeat Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 73-72. The Islanders entered the 2016-17 season as a team some felt could end Stephen F. Austin’s run of consecutive Southland titles.

The Cardinals have picked up the intensity on the offensive end of the floor over the course of the past six games. LU is averaging better than 94 points per game during that stretch, which includes two 100-point outings. Led by junior Colton Weisbrod who is averaging nearly 15 points per game, the Cardinals are shooting 46 percent from the field. Sophomore Nick Garth sparks Big Red’s outside threat. The Houston native is averaging nearly 12 points per game and ranks second in the league knocking down three triples per game.

While the Cardinals enter the week leading the league in scoring offense (81.1 ppg), UNO brings the league’s top offensive threat in the form of Erik Thomas. The senior guard is the only player in the Southland averaging better than 20 points per contest. Thomas leads a UNO squad that is averaging nearly 76 points per game. The Privateers are shooting nearly 47 percent from the field, but just a shade over 31 percent from three-point range.

Historically, New Orleans has caused LU several frustrations on the court. The Privateers lead the all-time series, 26-7 (.788), including a 12-5 (.706) record in Beaumont. Oddly, several of those losses are due in large part to current LU head coach Tic Price. Price built New Orleans into a national power in the 1990s, and recorded 10 victories against LU. Adding to that stat, Price’s first victory as the Cardinals’ head coach came against UNO when Price took over the Cardinals’ program as the interim head coach near the end of the 2013-14 season.

Despite being just two games into the Southland schedule, the league has been flipped on its side by upsets. Three of the team’s picked to battle for the conference title have at least one loss, including Sam Houston State and A&M-Corpus Christi who have started the season 0-2 (defending champion Stephen F. Austin is 1-1). Currently Nicholls, Southeastern Louisiana, UNO, and McNeese enter the second week of Southland play with 2-0 records, while the Cardinals are the league’s only 1-0 team.

Thursday’s game is slated to tip off at 7:30 p.m. (or 30 minutes following the conclusion of the LU women’s game) from the Montagne Center. The game can be heard live Newstalk 560 KLVI, and seen live on ESPN3.