The Wildcats (14-7, 5-5) extended their win streak to three by defeating the Lamar Cardinals (2-19, 0-10) 85-82 on Saturday afternoon in Beaumont.
Head coach Brette Tanner led his team to its third straight Western Athletic Conference victory against a former Southland rival. Tanner’s team was down by one with under two minutes to play but his team rallied back for the three-point win. The Wildcats haven’t lost to the Cardinals since an 80-61 loss in the 2014-15 season. First-year head coach Alvin Brooks and his Cardinals only had nine players to play due to COVID-19 protocols heading into Saturday.
“Winning on the road is hard,” Tanner said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, where you’re playing, but the travel and all the stuff you have to go through, it’s hard to win. It’s hard to win any Div. I basketball game, let alone on the road. Who cares how we get it as long as we get it.”
A tight first half saw the Cardinals take a 37-36 lead. The Wildcats shot 36 percent from the field and 20 percent from three. The Wildcats defense forced eight turnovers and had seven points off turnovers. Senior guard Tobias Cameron led his squad with seven points.
“We were a little concerned because they scored two more points off of turnovers than us,” Tanner said. “That’s not a normal stat for us so that stood out. If you can be between one or two possessions at halftime on the road then you’re in good shape.”
After the first half, the Wildcats roared back and took a commanding 12-point lead with 12:52 to play. However, the Cardinals roared back to cut it to a 64-62 Wildcats lead with over nine minutes to play. The Cardinals tied the game at 66 and took the lead 69-67 with over six minutes left.
Down the stretch, the Wildcats led 80-79 with 30 seconds remaining. The Wildcats used their 26-39 free throw shooting to seal the WAC road win.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well from the free-throw line and we usually do,” Tanner said. “We continued to be aggressive and attack the rim. They got to the line that many times because they stayed aggressive. We made just enough.”
Coach Tanner and the Wildcats defense scored 16 points off of 13 turnovers. Senior guard Mahki Morris led the Wildcats with 17 points. The Wildcats are now sixth in WAC play heading into next week. The Wildcats shot over 45 percent from the field in the second half after shooting over 36 percent in the first.
The Wildcats (14-7, 5-5) now head home to face the Chicago State Cougars (6-15, 2-6) and University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros (6-14, 1-7) on Wednesday and Saturday next week.
“It’s always refreshing to be back at home,” Tanner said. “What I want to see from our guys is to come back and play with some energy. We’ve always fought Lamar tooth and nail on the road like this in Beaumont.”
The Wildcats and Cougars tip-off at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the Teague Special Events Center. The games will be broadcasted live on ESPN+.