Lamar Loop: LU Men's, Lady's basketball have strong starts

Zjori Bosha

Both Lamar University basketball programs were picked to finish at the top of the Southland Conference standings. And if early progress is any indication, the Cardinals could be looking at two conference titles.

The men’s team is now 5-1 after a 66-52 win over UTEP in El Paso on Nov. 27. The Cards, who got double-doubles from senior Zjori Bosha and junior Josh Nzeakor, jumped out to a 13-0 lead and never looked back. The victory equals the best start for the Cardinals since the 2008-09 season.

Big Red finished the night shooting 23-of-59 (.390) from the field following a 16-of-31 (.516) performance in the opening half. As hot as the Cards were from the field, they were even more impressive from beyond the arc (9-of-14, .643). LU knocked down nine triples in first 20 minutes to build a 22-point first-half advantage.

“At the end of the day, we held them to 32 percent from the field in the opening half and just 33 percent for the game,” said head coach Tic Price. “We always try to play the percentages on defense, and that is where we want to hold opponents. I’m most proud of Zjori Bosha’s performance on defense. Keith Frazier is a big-time scorer and Zjori held him to four points on 2-of-10 shooting. I’m real happy for these guys tonight.”

Bosha scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while Nzeakor added 15 points and pulled down 12 rebounds as LU built what would turn out to be an insurmountable lead early. Also scoring in double figures were seniors Joey Frenchwood with 12 points and Colton Weisbrod (11 points).

The Miners only had one player in double figures as Trey Wade came off the bench to score 13 points and pull down five rebounds.

Lamar will next play on Saturday, Dec. 2 when they travel to Conway, South Carolina for a rematch with Coastal Carolina at 6 p.m. Coastal Carolina handed Lamar their only loss of the season thus far, which was a 66-60 game in Beaumont on Nov. 14. The game can be heard live on 560 AM.

LU will be back home on Tuesday, Dec. 5 to host the University of St. Thomas at 7 p.m.

On the women’s side, the Lady Cards are 4-3 after playing a very tough non-conference slate that included nationally ranked Baylor and Purdue.

Kiandra Bowers became the 14th player in program history to score 1,000 points in a career to highlight the team’s 90-80 victory over the Northern Illinois Huskies on Nov. 25 in San Antonio.

Bowers had 17 points on the day to push her career total to 1,009 points. She also had eight rebounds, giving her 695 for her career, moving her past Kara Audery for eighth place on LU’s all-time list.

Juniors Moe Kinard and Chastadie Barrs had double-doubles for the Cardinals as Kinard had 30 points with a career-best 13 rebounds, while Barrs had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Barrs also had nine assists, falling one assist shy of her third double-double of the season. She also had one steal, giving her at least one steal in all 67 games of her career.

Freshman Lola Bracy added a career-high 11 points off the bench for the Cardinals.

“All of our kids played well,” said coach Robin Harmony. “Moe played well, and Chas will always be our quarterback. Lola wasn’t afraid as a freshman. She penetrated, she defended well and she hit her open 3-pointers.”

Northern Illinois, a member of the Mid-American Conference, fell to 4-2 on the season.

“We beat a team from a conference that is five steps above the Southland Conference. They beat a lot of top-100 teams,” Harmony said. “It shows the talent we’ve been bragging about. Our kids stepped up. They defended well. We hit our shot. We knocked off what was probably the best team in the tournament. We did the job to them today.”

Lamar will wrap up their three-game road swing when they travel to Stockton, California, to meet the Pacific Tigers on Thursday, Nov. 30. LU’s next home game is on Monday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. against Schreiner.

For her efforts, Kinard was named the Southland Conference Women’s Basketball Player of the Week on Nov. 27.

Basketball recruiting

Men’s head coach Tic Price announced earlier this month the signing of three players. Junior College transfer Christian Barrett and high school standouts Davion Buster and Grehlon Easter will join the team next season.

“The first thing we wanted to do was identify guys who were a good fit for our style of play,” said Price. “At the end of the day we felt like all three of these guys fit that mold. Each guy brings his own strengths to our roster. We feel very good about the talent we’ve added during the early signing period. We’ve added depth to our team with three guys who will compete at a high level, in addition to some offensive weapons.”

The 2017 early signing class consists of two guards (Buster and Easter) and a forward (Barrett). The signees will join the four NCAA Division I transfers who were added to the LU roster during the offseason. The additions come at a key time for the Cardinals who will be graduating six players following the 2017-18 season, a senior class that includes four guards and two forwards.

“When you talk about developing a culture, a big part of that is trying to bring in winners,” said Price. “You look for guys who have won at a very high level, players who refuse to lose because it’s part of their DNA. Bringing in guys who have played and won at a championship level adds to the standard that we’ve set for this program,” added Price.

Barrett will make his way to the Golden Triangle from Jacksonville College. A two-star prospect, Barrett is out to a quick start during his junior college career averaging 13 points and five rebounds through the first two weeks of the season. He first-team all-state selection out of Houston’s Westbury Christian High School where he led the squad to a 33-7 (.825) overall record and a perfect run through district play. Westbury wrapped up the season by bringing home the 2016 state championship behind Barrett’s 19 points and 11 rebounds per game.

“Christian gives us a grown man in the paint,” said Price. “He is one of those guys who is going to battle. He takes pride doing the little things on the court. With us losing Colton (Weisbrod) at the end of this year, Christian is a guy that we see can come in and play a very similar role. He may not be quite as efficient offensively as Colton is now, but he does everything else just as well. He is a double-double threat every game.”

Buster enters his senior season as one of the states’ elite scorers. He has already eclipsed the 2,000-point plateau before he stepped on the court to begin the 2017-18 season. A first-team All-Central Texas selection, there were signs that Buster would play college basketball early in his career. A 5-10 guard, Buster averaged 26.8 points, dished out 4.1 assists and recorded 3.4 steals as a sophomore.

“Davion gives us an offensive threat that we’ve probably never seen here before,” said Price. “Simply put, he is a scoring machine. The kid can play either the one or the two position. What we really liked about him is you can’t guard this guy. He is very quick with the basketball, and he’s relentless on the floor. Davion plays hard on both ends of the court.”

Easter is a two-star prospect from Little Rock’s Mills High School. A top-10 guard from the state of Arkansas, Easter guided Mills to a near perfect 31-2 (.939) overall record and a 2017 state title.

“Grehlon Easter has a toughness about him,” said Price. “He will compete on every play. He is another member of this signing class who can put up some big points. Defensively, he works just has hard and can guard several positions on the floor. Every time we watched him play he never backed down no matter who the competition was.”

Tennis

German standout Patrick Fleischhauer will further his education at Lamar University as a member of the Cardinals’ tennis team announced LU head coach Scott Shankles.

Fleischhauer’s signing comes at a crucial time for LU as Shankles will be looking to replace two starters, both of whom are All-Southland players, at the end of the season.

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