A quick 22-2 start leads to a 35-point win for the Wildcats (18-8, 9-6) over the Lamar Cardinals (2-24, 0-15) on a cold Thursday night at the Teague Center.
Head coach Brette Tanner won his 18th game as a first year head coach in style as his team cruised over the Cardinals. On Jan. 29 these two teams fought in an 85-82 Wildcats win in Beaumont. Thursday night, the Wildcats used their season high 41 points off of 37 turnovers to get back to winning ways after losing to Sam Houston in overtime last week.
With the win the Wildcats remain in sixth in the Western Athletic Conference. Tanner and the Wildcats have three games remaining before the conference tournament in Las Vegas on March 8th through 12th.
“We challenged those guys today to come out with some defensive intensity,” Tanner said. “Right before they went out on the court I told them, ‘On the first possession turn them over,’ and they did. When we’ve done that all of them have turned into double digit wins. I was proud of them and I was more proud of the fact that they didn’t have a letdown.”
After a quick 22-2 run to start the matchup, the Wildcats went into halftime up 43-20. The Wildcats scored 18 points off 16 turnovers in the run and finished the half with 26 points off 22 turnovers. On top of all the turnovers, the Wildcats dished out ten assists, shot 47 percent from the field, and 43 percent from beyond the arc. Redshirt senior guard and forward Tobias Cameron led the Wildcats with nine at half.
“We wanted to make sure we continued to push the pedal and we talked about that all the way up until the four minute mark,” Tanner said. “It does give me relief we were able to do that and hopefully do it again at SFA.”
The Wildcats continued to roll as they never lost their lead throughout the entire game. Sophomore forward Cameron Steele scored 12 of his 16 points on 4-5 shooting in the second half. Steele and the Wildcats finished the game shooting 40 percent from the field with 41 bench points, 30 paint points, and 18 assists.
“When we score off our defense we’re really good and we’re tough to beat,” Tanner said. “I tell them all the time to not be afraid to make mistakes. This is the time of year to take the rule book and throw it in the trash. It’s about going in there, trying to win games, flying around and being crazy.”
The main feature of the second half was senior guard Coryon Mason scoring his 1000th career point on a reverse layup at the 18:13 mark. Mason, a Ranger College transfer, finished his career night with nine points on 4-6 shooting.
“The fact that he came here and to do what he’s done here is incredible,” Tanner said. “I was shocked when I found out this week he was six points away from a 1000 because of all the other stuff he does for us. He’s out there tonight and we’re up by 31 and he takes a charge, that’s who he is. You can’t turn him off, I’ve tried.”
After the 35-point win the Wildcats (18-8, 9-6) head to Nacogdoches to face the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (19-8, 11-4). Prior to ACU, Tanner was an assistant coach for the Lumberjacks and assistant coach Antonio Bostic played under Tanner at SFA. On Jan. 6 the Lumberjacks came into the Teague Center and beat the Wildcats 64-58. The Wildcats were down by 17 but cut it to three with 43 seconds left, but it was too little too late.
“We’ve always had really tough games with SFA,” Tanner said. “Every game in the WAC is a tough game. Every team is good enough to beat you and Lamar is good enough to beat us. SFA is always a tight game and I would expect nothing less on Sat. in Nacogdoches.”
The Wildcats and Lumberjacks tip at 4 p.m. on Saturday in Nacogdoches at the William R. Johnson Coliseum. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+.