By McNeese SID Matthew Bonnette
LAKE CHARLES – Kevin Hardy had a game-high 23 points and Ledrick Eackles scored 22 to lead McNeese State to an 82-69 win over New Orleans on Saturday afternoon and pushing the Cowboys to its first 2-0 start in Southland Conference play since the 2011 championship season.
In winning its second straight game, McNeese (4-10, 2-0) connected on 44.6 percent of its shots from the floor but it was the dead-on aim from the free throw line that put the Cowboys on top.
McNeese made 30 of 35 from the charity stripe, including a 24 for 27 mark in the second half.
"Anytime you can shoot that well at the line, you're going to put yourself in position to win games," said head coach Dave Simmons. "I thought Kevin (Hardy) had another nice game today and had a really good dunk."
Hardy connected on 8 of his 12 shots from the field and 7 of 8 at the free throw line. In Thursday's win over Southeastern Louisiana, he made 6 of 7 from the field and hit all five of his attempts from the charity stripe. He missed his first free throw in four games and saw his string of 14 consecutive makes come to and end with his only miss on Saturday.
Eackles hit 6 of 13 from the field and was 1 of 5 from three-point range. He also knocked down 9 of 11 from the line.
UNO (3-7, 0-2) was led by Cory Dixon who had 24 points and 17 rebounds. He Privateers held a 50-34 advantage on the glass.
McNeese led 37-22 at the half after an 11-0 run midway through the frame opened up a 10-8 lead to a 21-8 margin. Hardy's emphatic dunk and a free throw with 12:34 to play in the half put the Cowboys up 16-8. That was followed by a Craig McFerrin layup and an Eackles lay-in.
Matthew Moss sank a three-pointer with a minute to play to give McNeese its halftime lead.
The second half was filled with fouls and foul shots as both teams combined to shoot 41 free throws.
McNeese took its largest lead of the game at 20 points following a Desharick Guidry layup with 8:04 to play to complete a 7-0 run with 8:04 to play.
UNO climbed to within nine points at 74-65 with 1:52 to play but the Cowboys' 6 for 6 shooting from the line down the stretch helped put the game away.
Hardy and Eackles led the team with five assists each and Hardy had a team-high three steals. McFerrin led the squad with eight rebounds to go along with nine points and two blocked shots.
UNO shot 35.8 percent from the floor (24-67) and was 3 of 15 for 20 percent from long range. McNeese made just 2 of 16 from 3-point land.