When Lamar coach Pat Knight ripped into his team during a postgame press conference on Feb. 22, one might have pegged the move as a gesture that wouldn’t bear any fruit.
It wasn’t so dumb when Lamar won the Southland tournament less than two weeks later. Turns out, it was exactly what the Cardinals needed to hear. Especially the seniors, who Knight described as one of the worst he’d ever been around.
“When he did what he did, we could have curled up in a ball in a corner and quit, but we never did,” guard Anthony Miles said this week. “It kind of just forced us to come together stronger and show the world that we’ve got a really, really good team.”
With a First Four game against fellow 16-seed Vermont looming Wednesday night, it seems unlikely that Knight will need another epic rant to motivate his team. Lamar (23-11) has won six straight since then.
And Knight, to his credit, says he had little to do with it. From the AP:
“You’ve got to give these guys credit,” said Knight, who added that his Hall of Fame coaching father Bobby told him he was glad the rant worked, but that he should never do it again. “I mean, I was on cruise control for the last six games. I didn’t have to coach, really. It was a joy to see these guys.”
For the record, Lamar starts four seniors and three of them average double figures with the other at 9.1 points a game. The Cardinals, making their sixth trip to the NCAA tournament but first since 2000, are a veteran bunch that likes to score in transition with a four-guard set.
That’ll provide an interesting contrast with Vermont (23-11), a team that favors a more deliberate pace and only has one senior on its starting five. After beating Stony Brook in the America East tournament title game, most of what the Catamounts heard was if they could win another NCAA tournament. Memories of a 2005 upset of Syracuse still loom large.
Lamar wouldn’t be that kind of upset (or an upset at all, really). But the winner faces the Midwest Region’s top seed, North Carolina, on Friday. That’d count. But I doubt Roy Williams would rant ever after a loss like that.
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