LAKE CHARLES (KPLC)-McNeese State couldn't combat the blistering second half shooting of Nicholls State here Saturday afternoon and the Colonels upset the Cowboys 78-75.
It was the second straight Southland Conference setback of the Cowboys in their home arena and the loss dropped their league record to 10-4. Nicholls went to 6-8 in league play. Overall the Cowboys are now 15-12 with two games left while the Colonels stand 10-17.
Nicholls made 73.9 percent of its shots in the second half, hitting on 17 of 23 field goals. They also made six of 10 three point attempts. The Cowboys shot 60 percent for most of the period until they began having to force shots late in the game and came away with a 55.2 percentage in that half.
The Colonels held a 23-21 halftime lead and in the second half the score was tied nine times and the lead changed hands eight times.
Nicholls got an edge with 1:58 left at 68-59 but the Cowboys went on an 11-6 run to get within four points at 74-70 with 20 seconds remaining. McNeese had to foul but the Colonels made the shots, scoring their last four points at the line.
"This one hurts," said Cowboy head coach Dave Simmons. "Nicholls was playing to stay alive in the tournament race and they gave us their best shot. We just did not respond. They did what they had to do. We just never got a lead we could keep."
The game was a little like the one on Wednesday when the Cowboys put on a rock steady shooting exhibition in the second half to make a game of it with UTA – which had a 29 point halftime lead - before losing. The difference was that Nicholls put on an even better shooting exhibition in the second half of Saturday's outing.
McNeese's Patrick Richard, the conference's leading scorer, tossed in a career tying 28 points, 21 of them coming in the second half while teammate Dontae Cannon scored 15 points, Jeremie Mitchell canned 12 and Desharick Guidry had 11.
Leading Nicholls were Sam McBeath and Jeremy Smith with 16 points each, Trevon Lewis with 15 and Bryan Hammond with 11.
The teams were almost even in rebounding, the Cowboys holding a 32-30 edge. Patrick Richard and Guidry led McNeese with seven caroms and Nicholls' McBeath took the game honors with eight.
Even with the loss the Cowboys will continue to lead the eastern division of the conference. However, should Stephen F. Austin win its game Saturday night (vs TAM-Corpus Christi), the two teams will then be tied for the second best record in the league.
The Cowboys have two games left on their schedule, both on the road. They play at Southeastern Louisiana on Wednesday and at Lamar on Saturday.