Rough week for Yarbrough and Lions

In what has become a recurring theme for the Lions (8-13, 2-7), tepid play in the first half sealed their fate, this time against first year coach Pat Knight and the Lamar Cardinals (15-8, 6-3) in a 59-88 loss and later in the week versus Sam Houston State (9-14, 3-6)  in a 55-57 defeat.

“Did we do a little bit better in the second half? Sure,” said head coach Jim Yarbrough in reference to the loss versus Lamar. “We did a little bit better in the second half at McNeese, but when you’re down 18 or 20 points it’s awfully hard to get yourself back in it.”

With starting senior guard and leading scorer Brandon Fortenberry sidelined with a broken foot, the Lions sought to fill the void in the starting lineup with sophomore guard Jeremy Campbell. Campbell, much like his predecessor, led the Lions in points with 14. Junior guard Daron Populist and senior center Elgin Bailey would contribute 10 points each, while Populist also tallied three assists and a block. Redshirt freshman forward Onochie Ochie managed seven points coming off the bench in the waning minutes of the second half.

Yarbrough also talked about Fortenberry’s injury and a possible date of return.

“He’s still very much in a rehab phase. He’s shooting around now, but he doesn’t even run and jump,” said Yarbrough. “That’s just an injury that we have to be really smart about. Even if he came back, there would be so few games left that I’m not sure if it would matter. I want to do what’s best for him in the long term.”

The Cardinals, led by senior guard Brandon Davis, managed 26 points off of turnovers to the Lions’ five. The Lions bench responded though, scoring 17 points to the Cardinals’ 15.

After the game, Yarbrough compared the two teams.

“You look at our program and you look at theirs, and speed and quickness is everything,” said Yarbrough.  “We need to try and address that in our own way and our own time.”

The Lions played with much more effort on Saturday versus SHSU, but faced similar results falling 55-57. The game consisted of 8 lead changes and 7 ties. Guard Todd Nelson led the Lions with 17 points followed by Ro Johnson with 16. Late in the game Bailey was sent to the free throw line with the Lions down 54-55. With an opportunity to take the lead, Bailey converted just one of two free throws tying the game with :22 seconds remaining. After a timeout, Bearkat guard Demarcus Gatlin drained a jumper with :04 seconds left propelling the Bearkats to victory.

“We just don’t have a lot of confidence to win games down the stretch right now,” said Yarbrough.

Despite dropping five of the last six games, the Lions still have an outside shot to make the SLC tournament in Katy, Texas.

 “For us right now it’s just about trying to stay in survival mode. I’m worried that the expectations and the desire to get to Katy, Texas are going to build up, and we’re going to collapse under it,” said Yarbrough.