KATY, Texas – Senior Nick Garth scored a game-high 28 points, but New Orleans got a three-pointer from Bryson Robinson with 24 seconds remaining to help the Privateers defeat Lamar University, 76-72, Thursday evening in the second round of the Southland Conference Championships in Katy, Texas.
The loss ends Big Red’s season at 20-13 and snapped a nine-game win streak.
Garth was one of three Cardinals in double figures. He was joined by a 12-point, 11-rebound performance from classmate Josh Nzeakor – his third-straight double-double to close his career – and freshman Davion Buster came off the bench to add 14.
After a hot shooting first half, the Cardinals cooled off in the second just 36 percent from the field and finished the game 25-of-56 (.446). LU also knocked down 8-of-20 (.400) attempts from three-point range. The Cardinals struggled from the free throw line converting just 14-of-24 (.583) attempts.
The Cardinals outrebounded UNO by one, 37-36, but the Privateers finished the game with a 15-11 edge in second chance points.
Robinson led a UNO offense that finished the night 27-of-59 (.458) from the field, including an 8-of-15 (.533) effort from three-point range.
“Obviously, this wasn’t the finish we wanted here in Katy, but coach and I spoke before the game, if you look back to the early stages of the conference season no one expected us to be here,” said LU associate head coach Bobby Kummer, who was filling in for head coach Tic Price who lost his voice during the game. “We started 1-4 in Southland play, but these guys never quit. They accepted our challenge to get better and they never stopped working. It was a great run to close the season but we came up a little short.”
UNO struggled to start the game converting just one of its first six attempts from the field, including an 0-for-4 start from long range. While, the Privateers were struggling offensively, Big Red took advantage knocking down 4 of its first 7.
UNO slowly began to catch fire. The fourth-seeded team converted 6 of its next 9 attempts to take a slim lead over LU. New Orleans went to work on the glass and built an eight-point advantage, 29-21, its largest of the game to that point. The Cardinals appeared to get a layup in traffic from junior Jordan Hunter on an athletic play, but it was waived off due to offensive goaltending. The impact of the call was made worse as UNO responded with a three-pointer on the other end of the floor – a five-point swing – which gave the Privateers a 12-point lead, 35-23.
UNO built a 14-point lead and appeared to be seeking the knockout punch but the Red and White fought back before the end of the half. Sparked by a Garth three ball, the Cardinals rattled off a 12-0 run to go into the locker room down just two, 42-40.
The Cardinals utilized that 12-0 run to close the half shooting 56 percent from the field (14-of-25), including a 6-of-11 (.545) effort on three-pointers. Unfortunately, the Privateers rebounded from a slow start to finish the half 16-of-30 (.533). UNO missed its first four three-point attempts but closed the opening half knocking down 4 of its last 5. Unfortunately, the Cardinals were outrebounded by four, 15-11, in the first half which led to an 8-2 advantage for UNO in second chance points.
The Privateers opened the second half on an 8-2 run to push their advantage back to eight points, 50-42, but just like the first half LU would respond. The Cardinals went on an 11-6 run to pull within three, 56-53. New Orleans maintained the lead until the 9:12 mark when Garth buried a three-pointer to give LU a 63-62 advantage.
UNO reclaimed lead at the six-minute mark on a Scott Plaisance 15-footer and from that point on the game remained close until the final horn. Trailing by three UNO took back a one-point advantage following consecutive baskets from Plaisance. LU responded with two looks in close but both layups were off the mark until the officials whistled for a goaltend to put the Red and White back in front by a point. The Privateers got the ball back with 46 seconds remaining and following a timeout ran a play for Robinson who buried a three with 24 seconds remaining. The basket turned out to be a dagger as the Cardinals got an open look on the other end of the floor – a long Buster three-point attempt – but the shot was short and UNO got the rebound. The Privateers closed the game by making two free throws for the final score.
The Cardinals end the season with their first 20-win season since the 2011-12 campaign. Big Red won nine of its final 10 games and 11 of its final 13 games to close out the year.