McNeese Men Win NIT Season Tip-Off Opener Over Stillman

By McNeese SID Matthew Bonnette

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Craig McFerrin scored a career-high 20 points followed by a career-best 13 from true freshman Jamaya Burr as McNeese State defeated Stillman College 81-72 in the second game of the 2013 NIT Season Tip-Off here at the University of Alabama on Tuesday afternoon.

A total of five McNeese players scored in double figures.  Ledrick Eackles added 18 points while Kevin Hardy and Keelan Garrett each scored 13.  Hardy and McFerrin recorded double-doubles after tying with a game-high 13 rebounds each.

The win improves McNeese's record to 2-3 on the season while Stillman drops to 1-2.  The Cowboys will next play in the consolation bracket of the NIT Season Tip-Off next Monday and Tuesday at a place yet to be determined.

McNeese led 34-29 at the half but not before it fell behind 19-10 with 12:08 to play in the first stanza.  The Cowboys went on a brief 5-0 run after a jumper from Hardy and 3-pointer by Eackles to cu the gap to 19-15 less than a minute later then closed out the final 5:40 of the half with a 10-2 run to take the five-point lead at the break.

McNeese never trailed in the second half but Stillman never went away.

The Cowboys strung together a 13-0 run early in the half powered by back-to-back treys from Eackles and Burr as McNeese built a 49-34 lead with 14:56 to play.  The Tigers, led in scoring by Stanley Magee's 19 points, stormed back with a 14-3 run over the next 2:30 to cut the Cowboys' lead to 52-48.

Eight second-chance points in the final 11 minutes were big for the Cowboys.

Eackles pulled down his only offensive rebound of the game and had a putback jumper to snap the drought then another offensive rebound and putback by McFerrin put the Cowboys up by eight points at 56-48 with 11:04 to play.

McNeese went back up by double-digits after a Hardy jumper with 8:38 to play to make it 62-51.  Stillman got close again after a layup by Jeffrey Wherry cut the gap to 73-66 with 3:30 to play but another offensive board and putback by McFerrin 20 seconds later kept the Tigers from mounting another run.

The Cowboys knocked down their final nine free throw attempts of the game to keep Stillman from posing any serious threat.

A day after setting a new school record with 38 three-point attempts against Georgia State, McNeese attempted just 14 in the game while making six for 43 percent.  The Cowboys connected on 29 of 65 from the field for 45 percent and hit 17 of 23 free throws for 74 percent.

The Cowboys held a 51-40 advantage on the boards and scored 36 points in the paint.

Wherry added 15 points for Stillman while Markeith Madison scored 13 points with 11 rebounds.  The Tigers shot just 34 percent from the field (25 of 73) and 29 percent from long range (10 of 34).