Evans, Ricard shine bright in early season

While shooting guard Brandon Fortenberry returned to the lineup he left almost a year ago, it was junior guards Jeffrey Ricard and Dre Evans who stole the show Wednesday in a 94-42 exhibition against the Millsaps Majors.
Ricard, a transfer from McLennan Community College, finished the night with 16 points, converting five of eight free throw attempts. Evans, a 5-foot 9-inch point guard, drained four of his five shots from beyond the arc on his way to scoring 14 points, while adding four assists. The Lions had three players record four assists or more, with Fortenberry and freshman guard Roger Woods joining Evans.
“It’s more weapons on the offensive end,” Fortenberry said of playing alongside Evans and senior guard Todd Nelson. “They bring a lot on the defensive end too. Dre puts a lot of pressure on the point.”
While several newcomers flashed their potential, junior center Jamaal James saw only ten minutes of playing time and hauled in only one rebound. After the game, head coach Jim Yarborough compared James to recently departed center Elgin Bailey.
“Elgin was a giant human being. If nothing else, Elgin took up a lot of space,” said Yarbrough. “This year we are a little bit smaller. Jamaal’s job will be to do that sort of thing – bang, bump cutters, block out, make it hard for a post guy to get good offensive position. The great thing about Jamaal is that he knows his job and he works pretty hard to fill it.”
The Lions faltered slightly in the first half, something that Yarbrough took notice of.
“I’m not sure what the first half was, jitters or what, but we were just a little slow-mo,” said Yarbrough.
The Lions added 16 steals on defense, with Woods and sophomore forward Onochie Ochie, each leading the way with three
“That is what coach wants us to hang our hat on, defense first,” said Fortenberry. “A lot of nights we will not be able to put up 94 points, so a lot of nights we are going to have to play defense.”
Senior forward Jan Petrovcic, who struggled offensively last year, managed six points and two offensive rebounds, while Ochie went 3-4 from the floor for six points and added four rebounds.
A No. 22 ranked Wisconsin had more in store than the Lions could handle on Sunday though, as Wisconsin powered through to an 87-47 blowout. Evans was the only Lion to score double-digit points with 13, while Fortenberry struggled to find his rhythm, shooting 1-8 from the floor and accounting for just two points.
The Lions open their home schedule on Nov. 20 against Louisiana College, but do not open conference play until Jan. 3, against conference newcomer Oral Roberts.