McNeese Cowboys beat Nicholls, advance to SLC Semi-Finals
Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - On Sunday McNeese beat Texas A&M - Commerce 79-78 in the first round of the Southland Conference Tournament to advance to the quarterfinals where they would take on Nicholls, a team who they lost to twice in the regular season, but Monday night’s game was a bit different.
The Cowboys controlled the first half and took a 41-32 lead into the break, but in the second half, they slowed down a little bit. Nicholls opened the second half on a 5-0 run making it 41-37, McNeese still in the lead, and the Colonels continued to push until they took the lead with 9:15 remaining in the game, and from then on the Cowboys and Colonels went back and forth.
With a minute and 30 seconds remaining in the game, and McNeese down 70-69, it was Harwin Francois who came up clutch for the Cowboys as he drove to the basket and connected on a layup, plus the foul to go with it, and with his made free throw McNeese took a 72-70 lead with just over a minute remaining, and they never looked back.
McNeese went on to beat Nicholls 77-71 completing the upset over the fourth-ranked team in the Southland Tournament, and with it, the Cowboys became the first eight-seed in the history of the Southland Conference Tournament to make the semi-finals.
“Our group is just believing and they’re just playing for something bigger than themselves, and I’m really happy to see faith rewarded, really proud of these guys, but the job’s not done,” said McNeese head coach John Aiken. “We’ve got a big game tomorrow night, and sometimes when you beat a team like that you’ve got water being sprayed everywhere on the coach, but these guys know what the deal is, we’re just taking it one step at a time, it’s not time to celebrate, it’s time to prepare for a really good [Texas A&M -] Corpus [Christi] team, and keep this momentum going.”
Two weeks prior to Monday night’s game it was announced McNeese would be without their third-leading scorer Trae English for the remainder of the season due to an injury sustained at practice, the following week McNeese needed to win their regular-season finale against New Orleans, and the needed both Incarnate Word and Lamar to lose in order to make the Southland Conference Tournament.
Despite McNeese trailing New Orleans by 13 at halftime, and Lamar leading Nicholls by 14 at halftime, the Cowboys miraculously came back, as did Nicholls, and with it, the Cowboys snuck into the Southland Tournament.
Fast forward to this week, and the Cowboys were able to beat two teams they lost a combined four games to by a combined 16 points, and the Cowboys are back in the Southland Conference Tournament semi-finals for the first time since 2012 and are the first eight-seed to make it this far in the Southland Tournament as well.
Cowboys head coach John Aiken has spoken all season about the cohesiveness of his squad, and finally, with their season on the line each time they take the court, we are finally seeing that cohesiveness, and the play-for-each-other attitude that Aiken has talked so much about, and because of it, the Cowboys are just two wins away from their first conference tournament championship in 21 years.
McNeese will take on Texas A&M - Corpus Christi at 5:30 on Tuesday in the Southland Conference semi-finals.
McNeese’s two games against the Islanders this season:
- Saturday, January 28th @ Corpus Christi: L 83-72
- Saturday, February 18th vs. Corpus Christi: L 77-54
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