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LU Men's Basketball falls in CIT opening round

VO LU vs TEX ST HOOPS.jpg

SAN MARCOS, Texas – Freshman Tyrin “T.J.” Atwood came off the bench to score a career-high 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting, but he was the only player in double figures as Lamar University lost at Texas State, 70-60, in the opening round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament Thursday at Strahan Coliseum.

The loss ends the Cardinals season at 19-15 (.559), and eight-win improvement from last season.

The Cardinals berth in the CIT marked its first postseason appearance since 2012, when LU advanced to the NCAA Championships. A huge step forward for a program that wasn’t expected to make it to Katy, Texas for the Southland Championships – picked 12th in the preseason polls.

“Defensively, we did not make the stops when we needed to,” said LU head coach Tic Price. “Nijal Pearson hit some big threes in crunch time and we didn’t respond. We didn’t have much shot pressure tonight. We also got beat up on the glass pretty good.

“With that being said this is disappointing, but I’m real proud of what our guys have done this year. We’re not satisfied because we still have more work to do, but I think our guys coming back understand that we’ve got to get back in the gym,” added Price.

The Cardinals finished the night 19-of-47 (.404) from the field, after a strong second-half performance. LU shot less than 30 percent in the opening half, but finished the night 12-of-23 (.522) in the final 20 minutes of action. LU also shot nearly 47 percent from three-point range (6-of-13).

Texas State shot nearly 49 percent from the field, after a 12-of-21 (.571) second-half effort, which included seven three-pointers. The Bobcats also outrebounded LU by 10, 37-27. Texas State was led by 18 points from Beaumont native, Nijal Pearson. All of Pearson’s points came in the second half. He was one three players in double figures for the Bobcats.

The first half was a back-and-forth affair that saw five lead changes and four ties. Neither team set the nets on fire in the early going as the Cardinals connected on just one of its first four attempts, while the Bobcats were 2-of-7. Texas State was the first team to heat up knocking down four of their next five, while the Cards struggled to a 4-of-15 (.267) start.

Despite the cold start, the Cards held a one-point advantage, 18-17, following a Terrance Hubby layup with just under seven minutes remaining in the half. Texas State responded to the Hubby basket with a 9-1 run to take a seven-point lead – its largest of the half to that point. The Bobcats’ run was sparked by a Nedeljko Prijovic basket with 6:38 remaining on the clock. The hosts pushed their lead to double-digits as the two teams went into the intermission.

The Cardinals closed the half shooting less than 30 percent from the field. LU was hurt offensively due to foul trouble. Junior Colton Weisbrod picked up two early fouls and went to the bench for the final 14 minutes of the half.

Texas State took advantage of Weisbrod’s absence shooting 11-of-26 (.423) from the floor, including two three-pointers. The Bobcats also led on the glass, 23-13. Texas State also got a huge lift from its bench in the opening 20 minutes as it double-up LU’s reserves, 18-9.

LU opened the second half knocking down four of its first eight, including a 3-of-5 start from three-point range, but Texas State was equally hot to start the half (5-of-8/.625). Big Red found itself still down by double-digits early in the half but quickly cut into that lead following an Albright three-pointer with 12 minutes on the clock. The Cardinals kept Texas State off the scoreboard on their next three possessions and got a free throw from Weisbrod followed by a basket from the Nederland, Texas native on the very next possession which pulled the Cardinals within six, 46-40, with 10:33 to play.

The Bobcats didn’t allow LU to get any closer as they responded with three consecutive triples from Pearson to build the lead back to double digits, 55-40. The Cardinals trimmed that lead to 10 before the final buzzer.

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