By McNeese SID Matthew Bonnette
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Texas A&M-Corpus Christi kept its hold onto second place in the Southland Conference standings and did so by holding McNeese State leading scorer Ledrick Eackles to zero field goals for the game on its way to a 67-51 win over the Cowboys Thursday night.
The loss unofficially locked up the No. 7 seed in next week's conference tournament for the Cowboys, who fell to 10-19 overall and 8-9 in league play, since Southeastern Louisiana dropped its game against Sam Houston State. McNeese will close out the regular season on Saturday at Houston Baptist in an attempt to finish at .500 in the league.
"I thought we played well in the first half and had a chance to tie or take the lead there at the end," said head coach Dave Simmons. "We just didn't show up in the second half."
Poor shooting all-around doomed the Cowboys in the second half. McNeese hit just 8 of 27 (29.6 percent) from the field in the frame and missed 10 free throws (7 of 17). At one point, the Cowboys were down 12 in the half and were 1 of 8 from the foul line, a margin that could've kept the team in the game.
"When you're not shooting the ball well, it's very crucial to make your free throws because those can keep you in the game and set you up for a run," said Simmons. "But we didn't hit them in the second half and we're never able to string together some points."
Eackles, who scored 31 and 35 points respectively in the previous two games, was held to just four points on the night, all four coming on free throws, and shot 0-for-11 from the field.
"They (Corpus Christi) did a great job of breaking down on him," said Simmons. "He missed some shots early then he got frustrated."
McNeese was in striking distance with 16:55 to play after Craig McFerrin finished off a traditional three-point play to pull the Cowboys to within 37-32 but Corpus' Jeff Beverly came right back with a three-pointer that started a 16-6 run over the next five minutes and the Islanders built a 53-38 lead with 11:28 to play.
The Cowboys never got closer than 10 points and hit just one field goal in the final 8:02, that being a Shaun Johnson 3-pointer with 48 seconds to play.
McFerrin was the only Cowboy to score in double-figures as he led the team with 10 points to go along with 10 rebounds to record the double-double. Garrett added eight points and hit two of McNeese's three treys.
Pete Kpan came off the bench to pull down six rebounds, five of those on the offensive glass. McNeese finished with 19 offensive boards but only turned that into 10 second chance points. On the other end, Corpus had 17 offensive rebounds and scored 21 points off the extra chances.
"When you do a good job of getting offensive rebounds like we did, you have to score more than 10 second chance points," said Simmons.
Corpus had three players score in double-digits, led by Beverly and Rashawn Thomas with 12 points each. John Jordan added 10 points to go along with a game-high six assists and four steals.
"I'll put him up with any point guard in the league," said Simmons of Jordan.
McNeese hit 19 of 62 from the field for the game for 30.6 percent and was 3 of 20 from 3-point range for 15 percent. The Cowboys made just 10 of 21 from the free throw line for the game.
Corpus hit 25 of 58 from the field for 43 percent and knocked down 14 of 27 for 52 percent in the second half. The Islanders also struggled at the foul line by making 11 of 22.
McNeese trailed just 28-26 at the half and had a chance to tie or take the lead with the final possession, but a turnover by Eackles nearly turned into a half-court make for the Islanders at the buzzer.
The half featured four ties and six lead changes with the largest Cowboys' lead at three points with 15:54 to play.