Lambert has been a roughly .500 team on the road and in neutral-site games this season.
But when the Longhorns get a chance to play on their home court, something magical seems to happen in the fourth quarter to allow Clayton Wages and Co. the ability to topple any foe.
Entering Friday's game against Denmark, Lambert had claimed narrow home wins over North Forsyth (65-63), Cambridge (51-50) and Milton (71-69). While the Longhorns ended up with a much larger final margin of victory against the Danes, the 66-53 triumph resulted from a dominant final eight minutes.
Trailing 43-40 entering the final period, Lambert — now 7-0 in its friendly confines — scored the first 10 points of the quarter and Denmark never again got back within one possession.
“We preached toughness all week,” Wages said. “Every time we play them, it feels like they out-tough us. We told our guys, ‘We have to be tough. This is a war.’ The refs let us play. It was very physical both ways.
“Kudos to our kids. They showed up. They were tough. They rebounded. They were physical. Every punch Denmark threw, we threw one right back. I couldn’t be more proud of them, because that is a really good team.”
Just 45 seconds into the fourth quarter, James Tyre knocked down a game-tying 3-pointer. The senior hit another trey during the 10-0 spurt before assisting Niko Wilson on a long-range shot from the corner that essentially put the game away, pushing the Longhorns' lead to 59-51 with 79 seconds left.
Overall, Tyre finished with a game-high 19 points. Wilson and Cam Bland added 16 points apiece. Freshman big man Will Dopfer recorded 10 points.
“We’ve got really good guards,” Wages said. “We’ve got three seniors out there in James Tyre, Keenan Gagen and Niko Wilson. Cam Bland is a sophomore, but he can play. Will [Dopfer] is a freshman, but he played like a senior tonight against Keinan [McFarlande], who is obviously just phenomenal.
“Having those guards really helps. When things don’t go well, we’re capable of getting going in a hurry. All of them can make plays. They can all score in the blink of an eye. James hitting those shots early [in the fourth] got us going, and we kind of fed off that and was able to push the score out a bit in our favor.”
While Lambert's offensive performance — which included an 11-for-12 showing at the foul line — certainly contributed heavily to the win, the Longhorns (13-7, 3-2) maintained a strong defensive presence to turnaround a 62-45 defeat in the teams' December meeting.
That included holding all Danes (11-8, 4-1) at or below a dozen points.
McFarlande reached that mark through three quarters but never got going late. Stefan Davidov posted 11 points after finishing with school records in points scored (39) and 3-pointers made (9) last time out. Chad Molloy also posted 11 points.
“We’re both better than we were,” Wages said, referring to the first matchup. “We’re more healthy, and so are they. This time of year, every game is tough. This region has some of the best coaches. The game planning is just crazy. Tyler [Whitlock] is going to have a great game plan.
“We executed what we had practiced all week. We made Stefan’s life very difficult. The kid is phenomenal, so to limit him to whatever we limited him to, I’m proud of them.”
In the end, the biggest difference between the two matchups would seem to be that the home teams in each instance were able to dictate the tempo.
Lambert's run-and-gun offense never got going in its trip to Denmark, but the Longhorns never let the Danes string together more than five straight points in avenging that loss.
Denmark actually started and ended the first quarter on separate 5-0 runs. However, Lambert scored 10 straight in between to leave the teams even at the end of the period.
While the Longhorns went ahead 13-10 and led for the rest of the second quarter, the Danes quickly jumped out in front during the third stanza and maintained their edge through to the start of the fourth.
But even when Denmark had the better run of play, Lambert managed to get quick transition baskets in an effort to beat the 6-foot-10 McFarlande down the court.
“That’s something we work on; it doesn’t just happen magically,” Wages said. “We put a lot of time into how we play. I think it's demoralizing a little bit when the other team scores, and we take it out of the net and score within 2-3 seconds. We’re able to do that a couple of times a game — which is huge, especially against a team like that. They want to play in the 40s and 50s. We want to play in the 60s and 70s.
“Pace dictates games, and in the second half, our pace won out. We’re thankful for that.”