NATCHITOCHES – A three-minute drought midway through the second half enabled Northwestern State to build its largest lead of the game at nine points, a margin that, when challenged by McNeese with five straight three-pointers, would be answered by the Demons at the free throw line after hitting all eight free throws in the final minute as the Demons held off the Cowboys 84-79 in Southland Conference action on Saturday.
The loss was the fourth straight suffered by the Cowboys as they fall to 12-13 overall and 7-7 in the league. NSU won for the fourth consecutive time and improved to 12-12 and 9-6 in the league.
Myles Hutchinson scored a career-high 27 points after hitting 5 of 8 from long range. Dru Kuxhausen added 18 points and sank 4 of 11 from behind the arc, giving him 101 on the season and becoming just the second player in McNeese and sixth in Southland Conference history to crack the 100 made threes mark.
Sha’markus Kennedy added 16 points and eight rebounds while Roydell Brown recorded a double-double with 15 points and 14 boards.
Chudier Bile led the Demons with a career-high 27 points and Jairus Roberson scored 15, all on five three-pointers. Roberson knocked down three of his threes late in the game that halted any McNeese attempt at a run.
“He was a difference maker,” said head coach Heath Schroyer about Roberson. “He hit some big threes there late.
“We had a good game plan and came out and executed well in the first half. But the first four minutes of the second half hurt us.”
McNeese built a 42-35 lead early in the second half but the Demons rallied with a 9-0 run to go up 44-42 following a Bile jumper with 17:05 to play.
Kuxhausen followed with his third three-pointer of the game, the 100th of the season, to put the Cowboys back up 45-44 and starting a streak where the lead changed hands five times in the next six possessions.
NSU built its largest lead at 63-54 following a Roberson three-pointer with just over six minutes to play and in a period where the Cowboys went scoreless for over three minutes and a drought of 1 for 11 from the field.
The Cowboys drained five of their 10 three-pointers in the final minute of play – one by Sam Baker, three straight by Hutchinson, and one by Kuxhausen as they got as close as three points at 82-79 with 8.2 seconds to play.
NSU’s Trenton Massner hit two free throws to make it a five point game as Baker’s three with four seconds to play fell off the mark and the Demons got the win.
McNeese led 38-33 at the half after outscoring the Demons 15-7 in the final 5:08.
Brown recorded his double-double in the first 20 minutes with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He got his double-double on the final play of the half when he tipped in a missed Hutchinson layup at the buzzer to give his team its five-point lead.
• Dru Kuxhausen became just the second player in school and sixth in Southland Conference history to connect on 100 three-pointers in a season.
• Roydell Brown recorded a double-double in the first half with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
• Cowboys outscored the Demons 15-7 in the final 5:04 of the first half to take a 38-33 lead.
• Sha’markus Kennedy threw down six dunks in the game, upping his season total to 58.
• McNeese shot 43.7 percent for the game (31-71), 43.5 percent from 3-point range (10-23) and 77.8 percent at the FT line (7-9). NSU hit 51.8 percent FG (29-56), 53.9 percent 3FG (9-17) and 85 percent FT (17-20).
• McNeese held a 41-29 advantage in rebounds.
• NSU outscored the Cowboys 30-3 from the bench players.
• It’s the first conference loss for the Cowboys when leading at the half.