EDINBURG - On paper, The University of Texas-Pan American Broncs go into Saturday night (Jan. 24) looking at a winable game — but on the basketball court, beating Lamar University won't be easy.
Lamar's Cardinals own the better record and statistics. They barely defeated UTPA's Broncs in Beaumont, 74-68, on Jan. 15.
UTPA has won two straight at home and stands 2-14 overall, 2-6 in the Sun Belt Conference. Lamar is 10-6 and 4-4 in the SBC. Both teams have ridden a rollercoaster ride of close games, blowouts and upsets during January. John King will broadcast the 7:30 p.m. Saturday tipoff on KSOX Radio, 1240 AM of Raymondville. The pre-game starts at 7:15. Matt Sundblad, the nation's No. 1 free-throw shooter among 306 NCAA Division I teams, gives Lamar an ace in the hole if the game is close. It helps to have a 6-2 guard who has made 64 of 68 free throws for 94.1 per cent accuracy.
Sundblad might pull some Lamar fans into UTPA's Fieldhouse, because he comes from Urbandale, Iowa. There are more Winter Texans in the Lower Rio Grande Valley from Iowa than any state. However, the Bronc faithful fans made their presence felt at two pulsating home victories on Jan. 8 and 10. They broke the yoke of a 23-game losing streak by blasting Jacksonville, 101-78. Then they upset Southwestern Louisiana in a thriller, 86-82. How much is home court worth? Well, the Broncs lost their last game a week ago at Southwestern Louisiana, 112-66. They went from a 4-point home win to a 46-point road loss, a 50-point swing. On the other hand, Lamar has played better on the road than at home lately. The Cardinals stunned New Orleans, 65-48, in New Orleans on Jan. 10. Then the Cardinals turned right around and lost at home in Beaumont to New Orleans seven days later, 89-87, in double overtime. Lamar started the season 6-0 but has lost its last two, both at home. On Thursday the Cards came close but fell to tied-for-first-place Arkansas State, 59-56. In their first meeting, Lamar blitzed ahead of the Broncs 15-3 in the opening 5:26 minutes. UTPA "won" the final 34:34 minutes, 65-59, but it wasn't quite enough. Each team had four men score in double figures in that hotly fought battle at Beaumont nine days ago. Keli'i Bandmann, 6-2 guard, bounced off the bench to sink 5-of-10 shots, all 3-pointers, for 15 points that led UTPA and the game. Larry Jackson added 13 points, Lalo Rios 11 and Ivan Ostarcevic 10. In a Division I rarity, Lamar won with its top scorers tallying just 12 points — Ronald Nunnery got his 12 all in the second half, and Rock Winston got his 12 off the bench. Marlone Jackson and Donny Coryell each hit 11. Saturday's rematch shapes up as another close one. Lamar dominated the boards in the first game, 43-30. UTPA won the war of the press, forcing 16 turnovers while giving up 14. There have been many wild games in the Sun Belt this season. Lamar has split 1-1 in two of the wildest, both double overtime. The Cardinals shocked Southwestern Louisiana, 90-87, in double overtime in Beaumont Jan. 8, after trailing seven points with 27 seconds to go in regulation time. Yet Lamar turned right around and lost by 59-56 in double OT to New Orleans, a team the Cardinals had cooled by 17 points, 65-48, on the road a week earlier. Lamar's three big guns are Nunnery, a 6-3 guard, 14.1 points; Sundblad, 12.6; and Jackson, 10.7. Jackson at 6-8 and Winston at 6-4 hurt UTPA with 13 and five rebounds their first meeting. Larry Jackson, 6-5 sophomore, continues to spark UTPA's attack with 16.8 points and 6.4 rebounds. Rios scores 9.1 and tops the team with 5.1 assists. Ostarcevic scores 8.8, Shannon Howard 8.8 JeRon Allen 8.4; Bandmann 6.9 and 6-9 Matt Palmquist 5.9. Winter Texans from Nebraska can buy tickets half-price Saturday. Coca-Cola and KGBT-KIWW are co-corporate sponsors.