NACOGDOCHES, TX – Playing without leading scorer and rebounder in Roydell Brown, McNeese gave Stephen F. Austin all it could handle until the final minutes of the game when a 9-0 run snapped a 49-49 tie with 6:49 to play that eventually led to a 67-57 Lumberjack win here Wednesday night.
Because of Brown’s injury (sprained ankle against Northwestern State on Saturday), McNeese was dealt a short bench and ended up having to play a couple of non-scholarship players – Myles Hutchinson and Trey Johnson – who each played a significant amount of minutes.
“Myles and Trey (Sleepy), I thought they were great,” said head coach Heath Schroyer. “You know we’re going into Stephen F. and playing those guys together a lot, I couldn’t be more proud of their effort, of our team’s effort.
“Obviously losing Roydell who is one of the better players in the league averaging 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds) and coming to a place like this, this environment, and we went toe-to-toe with them.”
Several times in the game SFA (13-10, 6-5 SLC) looked to pull away but the Cowboys’ stayed true to their defensive game plan with man-to-man coverage and switches, that helped keep the Lumberjacks off balance.
For example, SFA led McNeese (7-17, 3-8) 26-14 with 6:03 to play in the first half but the Cowboys amped up its defense to force turnovers and bad shots and outscored the Lumberjacks by a 15-7 margin and go in down just 33-29 at the break.
A big part of that was Hutchinson scoring five straight points – a three-pointer and two free throws with under two minutes to play in the half.
Trey Touchet’s three-point shooting in the second half helped McNeese pull to within one point at 40-39 with 12:52 to play, then Johnson put McNeese on top at 42-40 at the 12:16 mark after a 3 of his own.
The lead would change hands six times with three ties over the next six minutes until SFA scored nine straight to go up 58-49 with 4:06 left to play.
Even then, McNeese stayed within striking distance by keeping the score in single digits but the Lumberjacks always had an answer for a Cowboy score with a score of their own to keep the margin within 8-10 points.
“I’m really proud of the way we played,” said Schroyer. “We tweaked some things offensively and defensively and I thought our guys really picked that up. There’s a lot of fight in this group and I’m really proud of it.”
Sha’Markus Kennedy recorded a double-double with a career-high 16 rebounds to go along with 11 points. Touchet led the Cowboys with 12 points and Will Robinson added 11.
The Lumberjacks were led on offense by Kevon Harris’s 22 points with 15 of those coming in the second half and 13 points in the final seven minutes of the game.