HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — In Lamar's first game since coach Pat Knight's blistering comments about his team, Mike James scored 30 points to lead the Cardinals to a 72-49 victory over Sam Houston State on Saturday.
Lamar (18-11, 9-5 Southland Conference) shot 63.3 percent (19 of 30) in the second half to break open a contest that was tied 28-28 at the break.
James and two other seniors, part of a six-player class that Knight called "the worst group of seniors ... that I've ever been associated with" after a loss against Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday, sparked Lamar. Devon Lamb had 15 points and Anthony Miles added 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
"Boy, they showed up tonight," Knight said. "I'll be the first to admit that I put them in a terrible position on purpose. I decided to do something pretty drastic, but I wouldn't have done it if I didn't have tough kids. I'm so proud of these seniors."
Darius Gatson scored 13 points for the Bearkats (12-17, 6-8), who were 8 of 24 (33.3 percent) from the field after halftime, including 0 for 5 from 3-point range.
Knight's words on Wednesday got Lamar widespread attention and drew the inevitable comparisons to the coaching outbursts of his often-fiery father, Bob.
The first-year Lamar coach repeatedly said that he was there to "clean things up." He added that some Cardinals on scholarship were "stealing money" and that there is an "infestation" of players with attitude problems.
James was suspended for three games earlier this season for what Knight labeled "uncoachable behavior." Charlie Harper, another senior, missed three games after an arrest for marijuana possession.
Knight disciplined four players who overslept on Feb. 18, the day Lamar played a BracketBusters game at George Mason.
On Saturday, however, the Cardinals were alert en route to moving one game back of McNeese State in the East Division. Lamar, who lost at McNeese State in January, hosts the Cowboys in the regular-season finale on March 3.
"It's all on them tonight," Knight said. "They stood up tonight. Our offense, our defense, just really came together. Especially to win on the road, and this is a tough place to play. I'm really proud of these guys for the way they played tonight. I just tried to stay out of the way and not screw it up."
The Cardinals outrebounded Sam Houston State 36-23 and enjoyed a 36-28 scoring advantage in the paint.