Lions holding on

The Lions broke a three-game losing streak last week inside the University Center. Head Coach Jim Yarbrough knew his team had defensive power in them. Thursday against the McNesse State Cowboys, and Saturday against the Nicholls State Colonels, the players proved their coach right. The pair of home games brings the Lions (11-13, 6-7 SLC) closer to the 2014 Southland Conference Basketball Tournament, which will be held in Katy, Texas in March.
Postgame Thursday night, Yarbrough talked about how the players became much more effective on the court, working together, forcing blocks and turnovers, which caused the 62-53 win over the Cowboys.
Thursday’s Pack the House promotion by Lion Athletics brought a heavy crowd, and many Lion football team members were among the spectators. Yarbrough says their support was more than he could ask for.
“We congratulated them on their year, but I do thank them for the support, helping the home court advantage,” said Yarbrough. “It was great. Anytime we can have some energy, because college basketball is all about energy.”
The Cowboys (7-17, 5-7 SLC) did cause some upset in the first half as they tied the score 25-25 going into the locker room. Then, the second half gave the Cowboys a five-point lead, and they were shooting at 75 percent for free throws.
“I think we did a great job defensively,” Yarbrough said. “The zone was very effective for us, we rebounded extraordinarily well. We out rebounded them. Although in the first half, I thought some of our decisions were questionable, we did a much better job in the second half which was great. It was a close ball game. They got up five, six points, but we didn’t wobble too much. We made a couple of baskets, we got the ball inside more and more in the second half. Slowly, but surely, we wore them down.”
The Lions had some break out scorers of the evening in junior guard Julian Chiera and junior forward/center Devonte Upson, who both scored in the double digits. Upson was 5-5 for field goals, with eight defensive rebounds. Junior forward Onochie Ochie caught 11 defensive rebounds. Chiera racked up 13 points, nine of which were three pointers in the first half and Upson scored 12 points for the game.
“In the first half [Julian] kind of settled us down. In the second half Devonte did a great job of putting pressure on the basket, knocking out a couple of scores at their goal,” Yarbrough said. “Then we made some timely shots. They were working really hard out there, and we learned how to win again which was big. It brings some confidence back.”
Their new confidence carried over into Saturday’s game against conference rivals Nicholls State. Chiera and Ochie kept their double digit scoring while senior guard Dre Evans popped in 13 points, and junior guard JaMichael Hawkins added 12 points off the bench. The Lions continued to pound the paint, and the bench scored 28 points.
“Right now, we’re keeping ourselves in the race to get to Katy,” Yarbrough said. “That’s really all we care about. Unfortunately, our journey has turned a little bit, so being one of the top four seeds may not happen, but I still think we’re in good shape.”