McNeese sophomore Caitlin Davis led a trio of Cowgirls here Thursday night with 18 points in a 66-57 Southland Conference opening victory over Incarnate Word.
The win was a good win in many ways for the Cowgirls, the first is a win to give McNeese a good start to Southland Conference play. It also marks the first road win of the season for the Cowgirls who entered the game 0-5 on the road that included road games at nationally ranked Texas and Baylor. Now the Cowgirls, who have been on the road since mid-December, will return home for four straight games beginning with a 1 p.m. contest against Northwestern State on Saturday, Dec. 30.
Davis, who was 6 of 11 from the field including two three's was nearly perfect from the free throw line, making 4 of 5 attempts. She was joined in double figures by seniors Dede Sheppard and Jasmyn Carswell. Sheppard pitched in with 12 points and Carswell added 10 points.
"I'm proud of our girls for getting a tough road win against a very tough UIW team tonight to start conference," said head coach Kacie Cryer. "I was a total team effort and everyone contributed at some point in the game."
UIW opened the game with a 9-2 lead in the first few minutes but the Cowgirls kicked things into gear and went on a run of their own, an 11-0 run to take a 13-9 lead then held on for a 2-17 first quarter lead.
UIW opened the second quarter with another scoring run to take a 25-24 lead but a three-pointer by Gabby Guidry gave McNeese a 27-25 lead and one it would never let slip away. McNeese held a slim 37-34 halftime lead.
Unlike the previous two quarters, it was the Cowgirls who opened the third quarter with five straight points for a 42-33 lead but UIW would cut the lead to four with just over four minutes. McNeese responded by scoring the final seven points of the quarter with five points coming from the free throw line to lead 51-40, one of its largest leads of the game.
UIW wouldn't go down easy and the Cowgirls weren't giving in as the Cardinals got as close as two points (51-49) with 5:50 to play. McNeese got points from Sheppard, Hudnall and Davis during an 11-2 run to bring its lead back to 11 points with 2:22 to play.
McNeese ended the game with its highest free throw shooting percent of the season (82.4) by making 14 of 17 from the free throw line. The Cowgirls also commanded the boards by outrebounding UIW 45-34 that included 17 offensive rebounds. McNeese allowed UIW to eight offensive rebounds. Carswell and freshman Bre'Ashlee Jones led the Cowgirls with eight rebounds apiece. McNeese scored almost half of their points in the paint (32) and 21 points off 17 UIW turnovers.
"I thought we did a good job of staying calm and handling their scoring runs," Cryer said. "I felt like the difference in the game was at the free throw line and on the offensive boards. We are looking forward to getting back to Burton on Saturday."
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