NATCHITOCHES, LA (KPLC) - McNeese led for most of the game and put itself in position to pull out its second straight Southland Conference road win, but Northwestern State would not fold and outscored the Cowboys 16-9 in the final 3:42 to pull out a 66-61 win over McNeese.
The loss dropped the Cowboys to 5-10 overall and 1-1 in league play while the Demons improved to 6-9 and 1-1.
McNeese will return home on Wednesday night against Abilene Christian.
James Harvey led the Cowboys with 17 points with four 3s, Sha’Markus Kennedy added 16 points and Roydell Brown scored 10.
The Achilles heel for the Cowboys was at the free throw line where McNeese made just 13 of 25 from the charity stripe, including missing five front ends of 1-and-1.
“We have to do a better job of scoring from the free throw line,” said head coach Heath Schroyer whose Cowboys split two road games to open the first week of league play. “I thought we did a good job of putting ourselves in position to win. We did a good job defensively and made some shots. We just needed to hit our free throws.”
McNeese hit 45 percent of its shots from the field (22 of 49) and 4 of 13 from long range for 31 percent. But the Cowboys left a potential 17 points off the board by missing 12 free throws and not getting the chance for five more attempts after missing the front end of five 1-and-1.
The Demons, who were led in scoring by Ishmael Lane’s 17 points and 12 boards, connected on 43 percent of their shots including 52 percent in the second half.
After holding a 26-25 halftime lead, the Cowboys opened the second half on a 12-4 run to go up 38-29 following a Kennedy free throw. The Demons rallied back to cut the margin to 1 several times but McNeese had an answer to keep at least 3-5-point lead until tied it at 52-52 with 2:58 to play following two Malik Metoyer free throws.
That was the beginning of a 5-0 Demon run to give them a 55-52 lead after a John Novel 3 with 2:25 to play. McNeese would not retake the lead in the final minutes but cut the margin to 2 with 36 seconds to play after a Kennedy layup.
McNeese led 26-25 at the half after outscoring the Demons 10-3 over the final 5 ½ minutes of the frame.
The first points of the game weren’t scored until a Trey Touchet layup 2 ½ minutes into the contest and built a 15-7 advantage with 8:37 to play behind a Kennedy layup.
Meanwhile both teams were battling tough defenses and getting limited shots off on offense.
NSU put together an 11-0 run to take a 22-17 lead with 5:44 to play but the Cowboys rallied back with five straight points behind a Harvey 3 and then a layup to tie things up 22-22 with 2:17 remaining.
Kennedy sealed the half with a two-handed dunk to give the Cowboys the 1-point lead at the half.