Cards Use Stifling Defense to Beat Lumberjacks
Beaumont, TX —
Senior Zjori Bosha scored 18 points and pulled down 10 rebounds and junior Josh Nzeakor added 16 points and 11 rebounds to guide Lamar University to a 76-54 victory over Stephen F. Austin Saturday night at the Montagne Center. The victory snapped a 10-game slide against the Lumberjacks which dated back to the 2012 Southland Conference Championships.
The Cardinals shot better than 45 percent from the field on a night that only saw them trail for 1:21 of game time, and never in the second half. In addition to their 45.6 percent shooting LU also knocked down nine three-pointers, including four from Bosha. LU opened the game shooting 15-of-30 (.500) from the field in the opening half.
Big Red never allowed SFA to get comfortable on the glass dominating the boards, 43-25, including a 16-7 advantage in offense rebounds. The Cardinals' advantage on the glass led to a 13-5 lead in second chance points.
The Lumberjacks trailed by 13 points at halftime despite shooting 42 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, and 4-of-10 (.400) from three-point range. The Red and White turned up the pressure defensively in the second half holding SFA to an 8-of-25 (.320). The Lumberjacks finished the night 18-of-49 (.367) from the field.
"I'm really very proud of our team tonight," said LU head coach Tic Price. "This was a total team effort. In the second half, we held them to 32 percent from the field and that was huge because they are capable of being very explosive. Both Josh (Nzeakor) and Zjori (Bosha) gave us a double-double – I don't know if we could've asked for much more. I also thought we did a real good job of managing the clock in the second half."
In addition to Bosha and Nzeakor, senior James Harrison scored 13 points, while junior Nick Garth came off the bench to score 11. T.J. Holyfield and Shannon Bogues led SFA with 12 points each.
Just as impressive as the Cardinals' victory is the fact that LU was able to do so without the benefit of leading scorer and rebounder Colton Weisbrod for much of the game. The senior was held to three points and five rebounds after being forced to the sidelines with early foul trouble.
SFA scored the first basket of the game on a jumper from Shannon Bogues. LU followed with a free throw from senior Colton Weisbrod and a basket from Bosha. The Cardinals would push their advantage to four points before SFA rattled off a small 7-2 run to take a one-point lead. That small advantage would last 28 seconds and would be wiped out by a Bosha three-pointer. It would also be the final time the Lumberjacks would see the lead.
Bosha's three sparked an 18-4 run that saw LU surge out in front by 13 points. The Cardinals didn't allow the lead to slip below double figures for the rest of the half as they pushed the advantage to as many as 16 before taking a 13-point lead into the locker room, 39-26.
SFA tried to make it a game again early in the second half trimming the lead down to single digits, 43-34, just two minutes into the half but LU responded with two free throws from Harrison and Bosha. The lead stayed within that range for the next three minutes until the Cardinals went for the knockout punch midway through the half.
After allowing their guests to pull within nine points the Cardinals rattled off an 11-2 run to take an 18-point lead with 11:33 remaining. The Lumberjacks never got closer than 14 after that as LU pushed its lead to 20 with just over seven minutes remaining. The Cardinals built their lead to as many as 23 points before closing out the game with a 76-54 decision.
"We put together a solid 40 minutes of basketball," said Price. "To beat a team as talented as Stephen F. Austin it has to be a collective effort of five guys playing hard at all times. I think we came as close to that tonight as we have all year long."
The Cardinals return to action Wednesday when they travel to Natchitoches, La. to take on Northwestern State. The game against the Demons is slated to tip off at 6:30 p.m. from Prather Coliseum.