Checking In On… the Southland ConferencePosted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2011
The Week That Was
- Lamar battles tough opponents: Pat Knight has certainly had his hands full during his time as the Lamar head coach. So far this season, the Cardinals have battled some quality top-10 opponents that included Louisville and more recently, Ohio State and Kentucky. Despite losing all three of those games by an average margin of 20 points, the Cardinals have actually been quite competitive in those games and seen some different players step up. While those games have added losses to the Cardinals record, Knight is pleased with what he is seeing. In fact, he thinks these tough games will help the Cardinals, stating: “This is just going to help us in conference.” They will open up conference play on January 4 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
- Fortenberry missing playing time: Southeastern Louisiana’s leading scorer, forward Brandon Fortenberry, missed his third straight game when the Lions traveled to take on South Carolina. In his absence, the team is 1-2, and struggling offensively. On the road against Arkansas and South Carolina, the Lions shot just 33% from the floor including 28% from three-point territory. In his absence, senior guard Elgin Bailey returned and has been the team’s predominant scorer averaging 13.5 points per game. In that span of three games, Bailey is also averaging nine rebounds per game. While Bailey has been a big contributor, the Lions are hopeful that Fortenberry will be ready for conference play which begins on January 4 when the team travels to UTA.
- Ingram named Conference Player of Week: Texas-Arlington forward Bo Ingram was selected as this week’s Southland Conference Player of the Week. Over the past week, the Mavericks competed in the Athletes in Action tournament that saw the Mavericks go 2-1. In that three-game span, Ingram averaged 19.3 points per game, including 21 points against both Utah State and Saint Peter’s. During the tournament, Ingram also averaged 5.3 rebounds per game, including 11 offensive rebounds. Ingram is peaking at the right time and they are hopeful that it will continue as conference play begins January 4 for the Mavericks. They will open up conference play against Southeastern Louisiana and that game is scheduled for 7 PM.
- Lamar (8-5): Despite going just 1-2 over the last two weeks, Lamar has continued to impress. The team faced and defeated Rice by the score of 87-81, before stepping up and playing some big names. First the Cardinals traveled to Columbus to take on the #2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes before heading over to Lexington to take on the #3 Kentucky Wildcats. Both games ended in losses for Pat Knight’s squad. However, they were able to keep it competitive and playing these caliber of teams in their non-conference schedule will help out the Cardinals when they open Southland Conference play. Senior guard Mike James has been impressive for the Cardinals, averaging over 21 points a game over the last two weeks, including a 29-point performance against Kentucky.
- Texas-Arlington (6-5): From a fan’s perspective, no team has been more fun to watch over the last two weeks than the Mavericks. The team may be 2-2 over that time period, but the team had its share of nail biters as each game was close. The first set of games for the Mavericks required them to travel to Tulsa and then play at Utah State. Despite hanging in there with Tulsa, the Mavs lost by five, 80-75, in overtime. They would also fall at Utah State, 73-69, despite a 21-point performance by senior forward and Southland Conference Player of the Week Bo Ingram. However, the Mavs would get back on track as they traveled back to Arlington and defeated Kent State, 74-73, and St. Peter’s, 73-68. Against St. Peter’s, Ingram had another 21-point performance, shooting 7-of-14 from the field and 3-of-5 from three-point range.
- Northwestern State (7-6): If the last two weeks have proved anything to me, it’s that the Demons have found their stroke offensively. Despite losing to Mississippi State, 82-67, in their last three games, the Demons have shot the ball well, shooting 48% from the field and averaging over 80 points a game, including an 89-point performance against Central Methodist. While they have been playing team basketball, two players, Shamir Davis and William Mosley have been key for the Demons. In the last three games, Davis is averaging just over 15 points per game and Mosley averages over 12 points while pulling down eight rebounds. These two players are starting to peak at the right time as conference play begins on January 7when the Demons take on Texas State.
- Texas-San Antonio (6-6): The Roadrunners are one team that I have yet to quite figure out. While they have played teams close, it just seems like they struggle late in ball games and can’t seem to close opponents out. This last two weeks, the team went 1-2, losing to both Houston on the road, 77-75, and UC Riverside at home, 70-65. The Roadrunners’ one win came on the road against Troy. Senior guard Melvin Johnson III led the team with 25 points against the Trojans. Over the last three ball games, Johnson has started to get going and is averaging over 20 points a game. He is starting to heat up at the right time as conference play opens next week. If he continues with this pace and the team can learn to finish out games, they will be amongst the top contenders in what is shaping up to be a tight conference race.
- Texas State (7-5): Despite sporting a 7-5 record, Texas State has some problems. One of their bigger problems is playing on the road. Right now, the Bobcats own a 0-4 record away from San Marcos, including losing two over the last couple of weeks at Long Island, 100-84, and at Fordham, 81-70. However, the team did travel back home and destroyed Huston-Tillotson, 99-47, improving their home record to 6-0 this season. While struggling, they have had a bright spot and still continue to shoot the ball well. Over their last three games, the team has shot over 44% from the field, including at 55% against Huston-Tillotson. But, if they want to make any noise in conference play, they have got to start winning road games. Note: Texas State has played two neutral site games.
- Stephen F. Austin (5-7): Things haven’t been great for the Lumberjacks over the last three games. After defeating Texas College, 64-57, the team lost their next three to Prairie View, North Carolina Central and at Oregon. Some of the struggles come from poor field goal shooting and over the past four games, the Jacks have shot just 39% from the floor, including a dismal 18.9% from three-point territory. Despite all that, in each of those games, the Lumberjacks have actually been quite competitive and lost their last three by an average of seven points. Senior center Jereal Scott has continued to be impressive and in those four games has averaged 19 points per game while pulling down 7.5 rebounds.
- Southeastern Louisiana (5-5): It’s been a difficult last two weeks for the Lions as they have struggled offensively without leading scorer Brandon Fortenberry. The senior forward has been dealing with an injury to his foot and has been kept out of the Lions past three games. During that span, the team has taken on some tough competition including traveling to Arkansas and South Carolina. Both games ended in losses for the Lions as they struggled from the floor, shooting just 33% from the field and 28% from beyond the arc. To fill the void of Fortenberrry, senior guard Elgin Bailey returned to the lineup and led the team in scoring and in rebounding. Over the last two games, Bailey has averaged 13.5 points per game while pulling down nine rebounds. When Fortenberry is able to return, expect Southeastern Louisiana to be amongst the top teams in the Southland Conference.
- Central Arkansas (5-7): It hasn’t been pretty for Central Arkansas over the last two weeks. The Bears have lost their last three games, all against top notch opponents as they traveled and battled against Iowa, Drake and #20 UNLV. If anything has been proven over that span, it’s the fact that the Bears have a weak defense. In those three games, the Bears opponents have averaged over 105 points per game, while shooting 58% from the field, including 47% from three-point territory (and won by an average margin of 37 points). In order for the Bears to make any type of run in the Southland, they will have to step up their defense.
- McNeese State (4-7): Before the season started, McNeese was predicted to be one of the top teams in the conference after returning eight players from last year’s regular season conference championship team. However, the Cowboys have had a rough start to the season, including going 1-7 on the road and over the last two weeks, dropped two more road games to UTEP and New Mexico State. Against UTEP and New Mexico State, the Cowboys offense played decently, shooting 41% from the field (senior Patrick Richard averaged 16 points). However, their defense let them down and allowed their two opponents to shoot 54% from the floor, including 36.6% from three-point territory.
- Sam Houston State (5-8): This season has been a tough one for Bearkat Jason Hooten. His team has been dealing with multiple key injuries as many of his big players have gone down with some injury. However, the Bearkats got some great news as junior forward Steve Werner made a return. Coinciding with his return, the Bearkats have gone 2-1 over the last two weeks, defeating Northern Arizona and Samford and falling to Cleveland State on the road. In his first game back, Werner scored 19, and in the last three games is averaging 12 points a game. His return has allowed the Bearkat offense to open up and shoot 45% from the field. Getting Werner back was a step in the right direction of the Bearkats, and if they can get some more players back, this team could end up making a run in conference play.
- Nicholls State (4-8): The last two games for Nicholls State have featured two different styles of opponents. The Colonels battled Dillard at home before having to travel and take on #6 North Carolina. Against Dillard, the Colonels cruised to any easy victory, 92-48, but against the Tarheels, they found themselves on the other side of a blowout as they were easily defeated, 99-49. While it’s hard to tell much about the Colonels, one area that they have struggled with is rebounding the ball. It wasn’t so much present against Dillard, but against Carolina, they were out rebounded, 69-33, including 30 offensive rebounds. Those second chances allowed North Carolina to dominate as they shot the ball 43.5% from the floor.
- Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (1-11): Things have gone from bad to worse for the Islanders as they have struggled to get anything going early in this season. Over the last two weeks, the team has continued to struggle, dropping their last five to West Virginia, Missouri State, Bethune-Cookman, Kennesaw State and Rice, bringing the Islanders losing streak to nine straight. While there are a lot of factors that have led to the Islanders losing so many games, most of it is the fact that they are still a young team. Over the last two weeks, the Islanders have been inconsistent shooting the ball and have shot 37.4% from the floor.
- Saturday, December 31: Northwestern State at Oklahoma — The Demons have been shooting the ball recently. However they will have their hands full when they travel and take on the Sooners in Norman. This should be a fun game to watch and if the Demons continue their great offensive play, they just might be able to win this game.
- Wednesday, January 4: Stephen F. Austin at Texas State — While Texas State has played well at home (6-0) they will have their hands full when Jereal Scott and the rest of the Lumberjacks come into town to open conference play. If the Bobcats want to be considered a top team in the conference, this is a must win game for them.
- Wednesday, January 11: Lamar at McNeese State — While both teams have been on the opposite sides of the spectrum to open up this season, this game has a lot of value to it and might present a “changing of the guard.” McNeese was considered by many to be the preseason favorite to win the Southland Conference. However, they have struggled early. Pat Knight’s team has played some tough competition so far and in each of those games the Cardinals have been competitive.
Spotlight on Conference Play Opening Up
As previously acknowledged, Southland Conference play is opening up soon as teams prepare for January 4. Many of the teams in the conference have battled some tough teams in their non-conference schedule, and it’s time to see if those difficult schedules paid off. McNeese was the pre-season favorite to win it all, however, they have struggled with their non-conference schedule. All of that gets put aside as virtually every team is starting with a clean slate, as each team sets out on their journey to be one of the top eight teams in the conference and make it to the Southland Conference Tournament at the end of the year.