NEW ORLEANS, LA (KPLC) - Sha’Markus Kennedy scored 28 points for McNeese on Saturday, but that was pretty much the only bright spot of the game for the Cowboys as they dropped their third-straight Southland Conference game, 79-66, to New Orleans.
The loss dropped the Cowboys to 1-3 in league play, 5-12 overall, as they’ll begin a four-game home stand on Wednesday night when they host Nicholls. UNO improved to 8-7 on the year, 3-1 in league play.
“Hat’s off to New Orleans,” said head coach Heath Schroyer. “We just got physically manhandled. I was really impressed with them. Defensively, they’re a juggernaut. But our kids battled and got within five (points). It was an Achilles heel game. You can’t go on the road and turn the ball over 18 times.”
The Cowboys had to change their approach late in the first half with UNO dominating the boards. That change was having Kennedy and Malik Hines on the floor at the same time which limited McNeese’s offense to mostly an inside game. Hines scored 13 points before fouling out with 4:55 to play.
“We struggled rebounding the ball,” said Schroyer. “We went to a big lineup to try to rebound the ball and it’s hard for us to score in that lineup. We just needed to try to neutralize the rebounding.”
That change resulted in the Cowboys rallying from nine points down and with the ball down two with a chance at the last shot and either tying the game or taking the lead at the half. But a turnover gave UNO the ball back with 5.5 seconds to play and the Privateers banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to take a 30-25 lead into the half.
McNeese shot 47 percent for the game but only put up 49 shots, making 23. That including a 2 for 12 showing from long range.
“Their physicality caught us by surprise,” said Schroyer. “They’re a very big and strong team and forced us into some bad shots.”
The Cowboys were able to scratch their way back into the game after falling behind by 11 in the second half. Kennedy led a charge that saw McNeese pull to within 60-55 with 7 ½ minutes to play, but the Privateers, who started the second half hitting 7 of their first 8 shots, used a 10-0 run combined with a 3:02 McNeese scoring drought, to go up 73-57 with just under four minutes to play.
The Privateers connected on 14 of 21 of their shots in the second half for 67 percent and was 25 of 51 for 49 percent for the game.
Four UNO players scored in double-figures, led by Bryson Robinson’s 17 points.
Kennedy added a game-high seven rebounds and four blocked shots as he knocked down 10 of 14 from the field.
UNO led it 30-25 at the half after Bryson Robinson banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer from 25-feet out. Before that basket, McNeese put together a 7-1 run to climb to within two points at 27-25 after being down by nine, and had the ball for the last shot of the half. But a questionable traveling call against Jarren Greenwood gave UNO the ball back with 5.5 seconds to play and that led to the final score of the frame.
The Cowboys will open up a four-game home stand on Wednesday at 6:30 when they host Nicholls in what is the grand opening of the new H&HP Complex.