Cards looking to rebound vs Wildcats

BEAUMONT, Texas – The Lamar University Cardinals basketball team enters the final 10 games of the regular season with a lot of work to do, and the task at hand is to start climbing the ladder in the Southland Conference standings. The task itself will not be easy, but the Cardinals (10-10/2-6 SLC) should see immediate results with every victory.

The Cardinals enter their upcoming game at Abilene Christian 10th in the league standings after having dropped three straight and six of their last seven. Normally that would place the Cardinals on the outside looking in for a spot in the conference tournament, but there is some good news for Big Red. The bottom half of the conference is locked in just as tight of a log jam as the league’s upper half. LU is at least a full game ahead of the three teams behind them in the league standings, and just a half game back of Central Arkansas and New Orleans. The Cards are just a 1.5 games behind Abilene Christian and McNeese State, and LU still has two games remaining against both of the schools.

Even more positive news for the Cardinals is the fact that three teams ahead of them in the standings are ineligible for 2016 tournament play (Central Arkansas, Incarnate Word and Abilene Christian), so if the tournament were held today LU would be in as the No. 7 seed. But, if the Cardinals hope to make their first conference tournament since 2012 they will need to start climbing the ladder.

Big Red’s first test will come Saturday at Abilene Christian (8-12/3-4 SLC). The Wildcats have been a surprise within the Southland tied for sixth overall, just 2.5 games back of Sam Houston State. Although currently in the middle of the pack, the Wildcats are ineligible for postseason due to the four-year transition from NCAA Division II up to Division I status.

Saturday’s matchup will be a battle of polar opposites as the Cardinals are fourth in the league in scoring (77.3 ppg), while ACU ranks second in the Southland scoring defense (68.7 ppg). The Wildcats have struggled at times offensively and enter the contest 10th in the league in scoring (68.7 ppg), while LU has struggled to slow down opposing offenses in the past six games and enter the game eighth in scoring defense (75.7 ppg).

One area where the Cardinals look to have a distinct advantage is on the glass. Big Red continues to lead the conference in rebounding pulling down more than 42 board per game. The Wildcats are ranked 10th in rebounding averaging better than 33 per game.

The two schools have one big similarity – they both feature two of the best freshman in the Southland Conference. ACU’s Jaylen Franklin currently leads all league rookies averaging 14.8 points per game, while LU’s Nick Garth is right on his heels (14.3 ppg).

Saturday’s contest will be the 26th meeting in series history, but 22 of those games were played prior to the 1972-73 season. LU has had the upper hand since the Wildcats announced they were joining the league. The Cardinals have won the past three games, and six of the last seven dating back to the 1971-72 season. The Cards are three-games above .500 (14-11) all-time in the series.

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