THIBODAUX - McNeese State's Cowboys didn't get a fair shake in the free throw column but the ones they got late in the game they made pay off for a 60-56 Southland Conference victory over Nicholls State here Wednesday night.
The Cowboys scored their final five points at the line in the victory, all coming within the final two minutes of play. They made only two other free shots in the game and had a total of 14 attempts.
Nicholls, on the other hand, connected on 12 of the 13 attempts it had at the line.
In a game that Cowboy standout Pat Richard, the league's leading scorer, was guarded at times by two players and held to nine points, eight under his average, other McNeese players stepped up big.
Rookie Craig McFerrin came off the bench for his first collegiate double, team highs 12 points and 11 rebounds. Jeremie Mitchell got his shooting eye back and tossed in 11 points including three, three pointers and Dontae Cannon also accounted for 11 points on a four for seven shooting night.
"Craig stepped up big tonight," said Cowboy coach Dave Simmons of McFerrin, adding that he was also pleased with the way other players came through in the game. "I was gald to see us make our free throws late. We're learning how to close out a game. Good teams find a way to be in the game late and championship teams find a way to win them. This was a tough game and it was a big win for us."
Now 4-2 in league play and 8-10 overall, McNeese held a 31-28 halftime lead with Cannon scoring seven points and Mitchell and McFerrin along with Desharick Guidry, another rookie, getting six. Richard was held to two points. He only had three shots in the first half in 20 minutes of playing time.
In the second half the Cowboys and the Colonels stayed close to each other. McNeese held a 40-37 lead with 12:20 to go but then Nicholls got on top and was up 50-46 with 7:01 left.
McNeese gained the lead for good at 51-50 on a three point shot by Mitchell and after Cannon scored and then McFerrin to give the team a 55-52 lead, the Cowboys got the rest of their scores at the line.
Rudy Turner, who scored eight points and pulled nine rebounds during the night, made one of two, Cannon made two of two, McFerrin hit one of two and then Turner wrapped things up by making one of two with only 13 seconds left.
Nicholls, which dropped to 5-14 overall and to 1-6 in league play, was led in scoring by Trevon Lewis who had 16 points and a team high seven rebounds also.
As a team the Cowboys connected on 50 percent of their field goals (24 of 48) and they made five of 16 three pointers. They outrebounded Nicholls 37-31.
McNeese now returns home for a Sunday game against Stephen F. Austin. Tipoff will be at 3 p.m. in the Lake Charles Civic Center.