LAKE CHARLES, La. - Lamar University needed a win at McNeese State on Saturday to earn a berth into the 2011 State Farm Southland Conference Basketball Tournament, but the Cardinals came up short in a 92-74 loss to the Cowboys at Burton Coliseum.
The Cardinals finish the 2010-11 season with a 13-17 overall record and 7-9 SLC mark. McNeese State earned at least a share of the conference title, and locked up the No. 1 seed into the tournament, with a 19-10 overall record and an 11-5 SLC record.
The Cowboys, who were playing for the conference title, came out inspired and opened a 15-point lead at 28-13 just seven and a half minutes into the contest. Lamar rallied to cut the deficit down before the half, trailing 48-40 at the break.
LU senior Kendrick Harris buried a 3-pointer with 14:44 to play that brought the Cardinals to within four points at 54-40. McNeese responded with an 8-0 run to open a 12-point lead that finally came to an end when Anthony Miles hit a jumper to make it 62-52.
"Our defense stopped them. We didn't come up with enough rebounds and we didn't score during that period of time where I think we could've taken a lead right there and maybe turned the game," said head coach Steve Roccaforte. "We cut it to four, but we couldn't cut it any deeper."
The Cardinals made one final push as junior Devon Lamb converted a four-point play with 11:10 to play that pulled Lamar to with seven at 63-56. Lamb, who finished with his ninth double-double of the year with 18 points and 12 rebounds, knocked down a triple from the corner and added the free throw after being fouled by McNeese's Daniel Richard.
Over the next three minutes, the Cowboys would use a 12-2 run to build a 17-point lead. A Mike James dunk got the Cardinals to within nine with 5:35 to play, but they would get no closer.
The Cardinals made just one less field goal than McNeese (30-29), but were just 5-of-26 from 3-point range. The Cowboys also enjoyed a huge advantage from the free throw line, making 25-of-30 to the Cardinals' 11-of-21.
"We took the attitude that if we win we're in," said Roccaforte, who just completed his fifth season. "We wanted to push the tempo by using two separate units, but we just didn't make enough shots to go into our full-court press."
Lamar did grab 21 offensive rebounds to build a 24-11 advantage on second chance points.
Three other Cardinals joined Lamar in double-digit scoring as senior Coy Custer and Miles each finished with 11 points and Orlando Brazier added 10 off the bench. James, the Cards' leading scorer coming into the game at 12.7 ppg, finished with just seven on 3-of-13 shooting.
Senior center P.J. Alawoya had a huge day for the Cowboys with 20 points and 16 rebounds. Patrick Richard and C.J. Collins added 19 each.