UIW center Konstantin Kulikov, with hands up, gets position under the basket to block a shot in the first half against the New Orleans Privateers.
Fans at the University of the Incarnate Word saw flashes of promising play from the home team Saturday afternoon.
The slumping Cardinals erased an eight-point deficit in the first half and made it a two-point game at intermission.
In the second half, a rally sparked by the presence of 7-foot center Konstantin Kulikov allowed UIW to come from six down to take a one-point lead on the New Orleans Privateers.
But in the end, the defending Southland Conference champions had too much athleticism and showed too much poise, winning 68-58 to hand the Cardinals their 11th straight loss.
“We just don’t have enough firepower, offensively,” UIW coach Ken Burmeister said.
“We go into lulls. I think in the first half we went eight straight times (scoreless).
“In the second half, we go seven straight times, (and) we didn’t get any baskets,” he said. “You got to get baskets. You know, the kids fought on defense. Rebounding was OK. New Orleans is a good team.
“You know, they got good shooters. Good athleticism. So, we just got to get that first one and get going.”
While UIW had Kulikov to defend and rebound in the paint, New Orleans (11-10, 8-2 in the SLC) unleashed significant talent across the front line and even in some of their big men off the bench.
In fact, reserve forward Macur Puou provided the difference for the Privateers against the Cardinals (5-14, 0-9) as he hit 8 of 9 shots from the field for 18 points.
Starting forward Travin Thibodeaux scored 14 and guard Troy Green nine.
Guard Cody Graham scored 11 and Sam Burmeister 10 for the Cardinals, who have been winless since Dec. 16.
But in Kulikov, from Oryol, Russia, UIW can see a glimmer of hope for the future.
He enjoyed one of his better games with six points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots in 29 minutes.
When Kulikov was on the floor, it changed the dynamic of the action. New Orleans had trouble getting to the basket.
Regardless, the junior transfer from San Jacinto College expressed some frustration at the lack of consistency.
“Most of the games we’ve had this type of thing, where we just play for 30 or 35 minutes and the last five minutes, we just let a team take the lead,” he said. “We just need to work on that in practices. I think it will be fine.”
Kulikov’s first few months at UIW have been chaotic.
The junior transfer from San Jacinto started practice, only to be told just before the start of the season that his eligibility was under review at the NCAA office.
He wasn’t cleared to play until a Dec. 22 game at Florida.
“I feel much better now,” he said. “Because when I came back after my eligibility status, I felt out of shape. Now I feel like I’m back in shape and I can play with these guys.”
A second-half, three-pointer by Shawn Johnson sparked cheers from the crowd and a demonstration from Speedo-clad members of the UIW swim team.