This is the type of effort coach Mark Slessinger wants from the University of New Orleans.
Consistent scoring. Sharing the ball. Forcing turnovers. Winning.
Thursday night’s 77-55 Southland Conference win against Lamar at the Lakefront Arena allowed the Privateers to move past a difficult week, which included an embarrassing home performance Saturday against Incarnate Word and the loss of junior Matt Derenbecker, the program’s second-leading scorer, who Slessinger said left the team because of a medical condition.
It occurred as UNO (5-8, 2-3) took control midway through the second half with its newfound mixture of offense and defensive pressure. With 10:14 left, Terrance Syon dunked from the baseline then watched teammate Tevin Broyles steal a pass from Lamar’s Rhon Mitchell, finishing at the rim.
It continued later as Syon blocked a shot by Mitchell, leading to a layup by Tradarrius McPhearson, stretching UNO’s lead to double digits, where it stayed.
“We had a tough week on Saturday where we knew we had played really really poor, below our standard,” Slessinger said. “I really tried to push our guys this week. They were very, very attentive, they were eager. They wanted to learn.”
They wanted to win.
Five days earlier, UNO struggled against Incarnate Word’s zone defense, an issue it hoped to correct before embarking on a five-game road trip which starts next week.
Against Lamar, forward Kevin Hill led UNO with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Hill also had 12 rebounds and two blocks. McPhearson, a guard, scored 11 of his 16 points in the first half. Forward Cory Dixon added 12, more than enough offense to break Lamar’s zone defense and outshoot the Cardinals (1-16, 0-5), losers of 13 consecutive games and still winless in the Southland Conference.
“Once you get that confidence that the coaches trust in you, and the players trust in you, it gets everybody going,” Hill said.
UNO forced 19 turnovers.
“It was just a good night for us,” said guard James Harrison, who scored 11 points. “It’s been a tough year for us.
“This game tonight was really personal, we took it personal.”
Donovan Ross led Lamar with 13 points. Nimrod Hilliard added 10.
UNO has a chance to reach .500 in conference play Saturday against visiting Sam Houston State. Tip-off is at 6:15 p.m.