The Lamar Cardinals raced out to a 33-21 halftime lead and kept their foot on the pedal in the second half to douse any upset hopes McNeese State had, earning a70-49 win over the Cowboys in the championship game of the Southland Conference Tournament in Katy, Texas.
With the victory, Lamar receives the Southland's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which begins next week. Mike James led the Cardinals with a game-high 26 points on just-under 50 percent shooting, and also grabbed nine rebounds.
Patrick Richard knocked down 16 points but only connected on four of his 20 field-goal attempts, and Dontae Cannon had 13 for McNeese State, which finished second to Lamar in the regular season East Division standings, with a 10-6 record in the conference and 17-15 overall. The Cowboys upset top-seed UT Arlington in the semifinal round to get their championship shot against Lamar.
This was the third meeting this season between these two schools. Each won on its home floor, but Lamar took the season series with the Southland Tournament win. Lamar upped its overall season record to 23-11. The Cardinals shot 47 percent from the field, and played tough defense, holding the Cowboys to just 31 percent shooting. The Cardinals also pounded the boards, taking a 38-27 rebound advantage for the game.
Coach Pat Knight's victorious Cardinals will now await the NCAA tournament pairings, which come out on Sunday, to learn where they will play and who their opponent will be.
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