Texas State put together a 28-8 run in the final 9:17 of the first half then had to overcome poor second half shooting while McNeese chipped away at the lead to down the Cowboys 80-68 here Tuesday night.
McNeese (2-4) led 16-15 with 9:17 to go in the half but then the Bobcats (3-3), who posted an 11-0 run early in the half, went on a 19-2 run to open the game up and take a 43-24 lead into the break.
LaBarrius Hill led three McNeese double-figure scorers with 15 points and nine rebounds, 11 of his scoring coming in the second half. Jarren Greenwood added 13 points and Jamaya Burr scored 10 coming off the bench.
McNeese outscored Texas State 44-37 in the second half and by 12 points after the Bobcats went up by 24 with 17:09 to play.
“I thought we had a chance in the second half when we cut it down to 15 but then there was about a five minute span where neither team scored and that was our opportunity. They kept missing their shots. But the biggest thing was we played much harder in the second half than we did the first.”
McNeese scored the first two points of the game then surrendered 11 straight Texas State to go down 11-2 with 16:28 to play in the half. A James Harvey 3-pointer ended the Bobcat streak only to start a 9-0 run for McNeese and a Greenwood jumper tied things up at 11-11 at the 12:13 mark.
The Cowboys regained the lead at 15-14 and again at 16-15 behind a Jacob Ledoux layup and two Burr free throws with 9:17 to play.
Texas State followed with a 10-0 run behind a couple of Taylor Blount 3-pointers then in the last 6:28, outscored the Cowboys 18-6 the rest of the way to take a 19-point lead into the break.
A critical point of the first half came when Lance Potier picked up his third foul with 11:02 to play and McNeese leading 13-11.
“I thought that was very crucial and a turning point of the game,” said Simmons. “He was playing really well at that time. Seemed like when we subbed him out, we kind of dropped.”
After falling behind by 24 early in the second half, the Cowboys started to chip away at the lead as the defensive pressure started to work as planned.
“The plan was to execute our pressure early in the game but it didn’t pan out,” said Simmons. “LaBarrious (Hill) played about as well as he could play tonight with three blocked shots and nine rebounds.”
Hill made good on a couple of offensive rebound tip-ins that helped get the Cowboys to within 17 points with 14 minutes to play. Then neither team found the bottom of the net for the next four minutes as Texas State built its lead to 19 after Ojai Black snapped the Bobcat drought to put his team up by 19.
McNeese was able to capitalize on some turnovers forced by the defensive pressure and got the deficit down to 13 points with just under four minutes to play but the Bobcats hit 9 of their final 10 free throws to keep the Cowboys at bay even though McNeese sank 8 of its final 10 shots from the field.
The Cowboys shot 39.3 percent for the game (24 of 61) but sank 15 of 31 for 48 percent in the second half. The Achilles heel was from long range where the Cowboys made just 4 of 20 and was 1 of 9 in the first half.
Nijal Pearson led Texas State with 23 points while Kavin Gilder-Tilbury added 21 as the only two double-digit scorers for the Bobcats.
Texas State hit 45.3 percent (24 of 53) from the field and was 6 of 15 from 3-point range. The Bobcats sank 26 of 38 from the free throw line.
McNeese held a 39-38 advantage in rebounding but turned the ball over a season-high 17 times.
The Cowboys will next be in action on Saturday when they host Louisiana-Lafayette at 1 in Burton Coliseum.
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