LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - KeyShawn Feazell returned after nearly a month away from the game due to COVID protocol and led McNeese with 22 points to go along with eight rebounds, but the Cowboys were missing two starters (Braelon Bush and Chris Orlina) and their top player off the bench in Collin Warren and fell 78-75 to Northwestern State in Southland Conference action on Saturday.
Warren, Bush (COVID protocol) and Orlina (broken finger) combine for nearly 30 points per game. In their absence, Myle Hutchinson (3 points, 2 assists, 2 steals) started at the point while Jeremy Harrell (12 points, 3 rebounds) started in place of Orlina.
The Demons (2-12, 1-2 SLC), who entered the game hitting 38 percent from the field for the season, connected on a season-high 53 percent. However, McNeese (6-5, 0-2) shot 50 percent and held a 37-27 advantage in rebounds.
“I thought we played well in stretches but there’s always a few possessions and a few plays that the winning team always makes and we just haven’t been able to make those plays,” said head coach Heath Schroyer.
McNeese hit 7 of 19 from long range but just 8 of 17 at the free throw line, missing several in key points of the game.
“We have to knock down free throws when we have to knock them down. You can’t go 8 for 17 at the free throw line. But we just couldn’t get stops when we needed them. They hit big shot after big shot. I give them a lot of credit. They came in here and played really well.”
A.J. Lawson scored 17 points for McNeese and flirted with a triple-double with nine points and nine assists. Harrell added 12 points and Ra’Shawn Langston scored 10.
The Demons had four player score in double-figures with Jamaure Gregg, Jairus Roberson and Jovan Zalenbaba each scoring 13 while Jairus Roberson totaling 10 points.
NSU led 37-35 at the half and either led or was tied for much of the first 10 minutes of the second half until the Cowboys’ Langston knocked down a 3-pointer with 10:40 to play to put McNeese up 50-49.
The Demons’ LaTerrance Reed quickly answered with a 3 to put his team back up by two but Feazell answered with a putback and-1 after an offensive board to give McNeese the lead back 53052 at the 9:50 mark.
The lead changed hands five times over the next four minutes and after the Demons went back up by 3 following a Massner bucket with 4:33 to play to put NSU up 64-61, Feazell battled for another and-1 score to knot things up 64-64 with 3:14 remaining.
Trailing 68-67 with under two minutes remaining, Massner buried a big step-back jumper to put the Demons up by three with 1:39 to play.
Lawson answered with a layup to cut the score to 70-69 just 26 seconds later but NSU’s Gregg threw down a dunk with 56 seconds left to make it a three-point game. The Demons extended their lead to 74-69 following two free throws by Brian White after Feazell missed on a three-point attempt, then after leading 76-70, McNeese’s Dru Kuxhausen sank his first trey of the game with 5.6 seconds remaining to cut the score to 76-73.
Two free throws by NSU’s Roberson and a dunk by McNeese’s Lawson ended the scoring.
McNeese led by six early on and NSU’s largest lead was no more than eight points, that coming late in the first half. There were 13 lead changes and seven ties in the game.
McNeese returns to action on Wednesday when it visits Incarnate Word and will then play at New Orleans next Saturday. The Cowboys will return home Jan. 20 when they host Southeastern Louisiana.