Cowboys clinch spot in Southland Tournament behind second half comeback

Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 12:02 AM CST
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - The McNeese Men’s Basketball team entered Wednesday’s game with everything on the line, but unfortunately for the Cowboys, they didn’t control their own destiny as they needed to win but also needed Incarnate Word, and Lamar to lose to Northwestern State, and Nicholls respectively.

McNeese’s Wednesday night opponent was the New Orleans Privateers, who less than three weeks prior, led the Cowboys by 22 points in the second half, but the Cowboys mounted a comeback for the ages to beat New Orleans 79-78 thanks to a late Harwin Francois three that gave the Cowboys the win.

Three weeks later, it was a very similar start for the Cowboys as they trailed New Orleans 42-29 at halftime, and even worse for McNeese, Lamar led Nicholls 40-26 at halftime, so even if McNeese did complete the comeback, it appeared as if it wouldn’t have mattered as Lamar was on their way to a win over Nicholls, but then everything changed.

Lamar and Nicholls tipped off 30 minutes prior to McNeese and New Orleans, and therefore the second half in Thibodaux got underway prior to the second half in Lake Charles, and by the time McNeese took Joe Dumars Court for potentially the final 20 minutes of their 2022-23 season, Nicholls fought back and made it a game with Lamar.

Nicholls battled Lamar in the second half, and with 7:14 remaining in the game, the Colonels took a 52-50 lead behind a Latrell Jones layup, and back in Lake Charles at the Legacy Center, the Cowboys were beginning their comeback as well.

McNeese kept fighting in the second half, trading the Privateers shot for shot, and just like Nicholls who took a lead with 7:14 remaining in their game, McNeese tied up the game at 60 a piece with 7:20 remaining in the game, and over the final seven minutes and 20 seconds, the Cowboys outscored New Orleans 20-13, to win 80-73, while Nicholls beat Lamar 64-60, and Northwestern State beat Incarnate Word 81-64, and just like that, McNeese made the Southland Conference Tournament.

The Cowboys’ comeback was fueled by all five of their starters as they all found double-digits for points, but especially their two seniors Harwin Francois, and Zach Scott on senior night as they combined for 29 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals.

“Man, I’m just so proud of our guys, to be down to seven, and really only six guys in the second half... and to out-rebound them by 23 with the group that we have, 20 offensive rebounds, we picked a really good night to show up on the physical side of the basketball, and especially in the second half, the second half was phenomenal,” said coach Aiken following the win. “Our guys are so resilient and so tough, I’m really happy for them, they deserve this moment, and in some ways, I’m kind of glad it came down to this, I’m glad it came down to having to fight our way in, we had to earn our way into the tournament... and so we’re up for the challenge, we’re excited to be playing on Sunday.”

McNeese Top Performers:

  • Zach Scott: 18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists
  • Dionjahe Thomas: 15 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
  • Christian Shumate: 14 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist

New Orleans Top Performers:

  • Jordan Johnson: 26 points, 2 steals, 1 rebound, 1 assist
  • Khaleb Wilson-Rouse: 17 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal

Thanks to their win over New Orleans and as coach Aiken described the scenario on Monday, thanks to the help from their “friends in Natchitoches, and Thibodaux” the Cowboys have earned their way into the Southland Conference Tournament. Their first-round game will be against Texas A&M - Commerce on Sunday at 5:00 in the Legacy Center.

McNeese lost both games to Commerce this season, an 82-80 overtime loss to the Lions at home, and a 60-58 loss to the Lions on the road.