No. 4 Privateers ride late run to ground red-hot No. 5 Cardinals in Southland quarterfinals

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New Orleans closes game on 10-3 run to win 76-72

KATY, Texas – Just when it appeared Lamar had erased their struggles against New Orleans, along came Bryson Robinson to deliver a heartbreaking blow to the Cardinals.

With a season at stake, Robinson rose up to deliver a go-ahead three-pointer with 23 seconds left to give the Privateers a thrilling 76-72 win over Lamar, the sixth-straight time the No. 5 Cardinals lost to UNO, who now advance to play top-seeded Sam Houston State at 5 p.m. CT on Friday.

“We called the play initially to get it inside to our big, Scott (Plaisance),” said Robinson, who finished with 17 points and four assists. “Once that broke down, it came back to me. I looked at the shot clock and figured I’d just take it in my hands.”

The Privateers weren’t quite able to breathe a sigh of relief. Down 74-72, Lamar guard Davion Buster’s long-range bid to give the Cardinals a 10th-straight victory glanced off the rim and into the hands of Damion Rosser, who proceeded to hit two clutch free throws to preserve the win for New Orleans (18-12).

The victory came after the Privateers had to withstand a pair of runs from the Cardinals (20-13) when it appeared New Orleans was ready to break the game wide open. Robinson’s basket helped UNO’s offense redeem themselves during a second half in which they shot only 38 percent from the field and were held scoreless for a stretch of just over four minutes.

“(Thursday) was a testament to what our team is,” said New Orleans coach Mark Slessinger. “They’re blue collar and they play for each other. I may be the luckiest guy on the earth to be able to coach them.”

The Privateers survived a huge performance from Lamar guard Nick Garth, who bounced back from a sluggish effort in Wednesday’s win over Houston Baptist to score 28 points, including four threes. The First-Team All-Southland guard helped keep the Cardinals in the contest and gave them their first lead of the second half on a trey with 9:22 left that made the score 63-62.

“It didn’t amount to a win,” said Garth, “but I fought hard for my team.”

Down 42-28 with 3:18 before intermission, the Cardinals stormed back to make it a contest. Buoyed by their fan base, Lamar got five points each from Garth and Davion Buster as part of a 12-0 run that Buster capped with a trey with 23 seconds left to allow the Cards to draw within 42-40.

Both defenses clamped down in the second half as each team shot under 40 percent from the field. However, it was the Cardinals who were able to find the basket with enough consistency to pare down a 51-42 deficit that eventually put them back into the contest. UNO went through a stretch of 1-for-12 shooting and relied heavily on the scoring of Plaisance, who had 16 points and seven rebounds.

Plaisance was also able to play Lamar’s Josh Nzeakor to a draw. Nzaeakor, the Cardinals’ second-team all-conference post, recorded his ninth double-double of the season, but had just 12 points after scoring 25 against HBU 24 hours earlier. He did grab 11 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end.

New Orleans lost to Sam Houston State 71-60 on February 27, but the Privateers are enthused about getting a second chance at the regular season champs.

“I think the guys are pretty clear on what the expectations are for us,” said Slessinger.

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