LAKE CHARLES – Finishing strong has been a hallmark of Northwestern State’s three-game winning streak, but on Saturday, McNeese’s strong start and finish defined the game.
After NSU climbed all the way back from a double-digit deficit to take a one-point lead around the seven-minute mark, McNeese ended the game on an 18-8 run to pull away to a 93-84 Cowboys win.
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for NSU (7-17, 3-4 Southland Conference), and McNeese snapped a three-game skid of its own with the win. All three McNeese losses came at home, meaning the Cowboys were desperate not to let another home game get away.
“McNeese was more aggressive to the ball,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy. “We were competitive in stretches, but it’s a tough matchup for us today.
“We didn’t do the little things like rebound late in the game or find their shooters in transition early in the game, and it cost us. They made three 3 pointers in transition early, and those nine points accounted for the margin.”
NSU’s Emareyon McDonald and Cedric Garrett drained two of nine Demon 3-pointers to take second-half leads, but the Cowboys responded with 3-pointers of their own each time.
McNeese’s Zach Scott rebutted Garrett’s 3-pointer with two of his own, finishing 5-of-8 from distance as McNeese sunk 10-21 as a team after averaging just 32 percent this season.
Scott’s second 3-pointer padded McNeese’s lead at 81-76, and the Demons couldn’t come closer than three points down the stretch.
Scott’s 23 points led five Cowboys in double figures, including 19 points and eight rebounds from Christian Shumate.
The Demons had commanded the offensive glass for most of the game, but trailing 86-82, McNeese protected its lead with five second-chance points in the final 2:30.
NSU led 13-9 in offensive rebounds, but McNeese owned a 14-12 edge in second-chance points.
One night after making 65 percent from 3-point range and 61 percent overall at HBU, the Demons shot just 44 percent (36 percent in the first half) against McNeese.
But the Cowboys drained 53 percent of their shots and 48 percent from distance.
NSU’s Kendal Coleman and Carvell Teasett each scored a team-high 16 points, with Coleman shooting 8-16 and adding seven rebounds.
Seniors LaTerrance Reed (12 points) and Larry Owens (10 points) also reached double digits.
While the Demons and Cowboys each made 10-12 from the free-throw line in the first half, NSU took just two second-half attempts. McNeese made 11-14 and finished 21-26 from the stripe overall.
In the first half, NSU faced 10-point deficits throughout the early going as the Demons started just 2-16 from the field.
McNeese made four of its first six 3-pointers and scored 12 fastbreak points early to build a 19-9 lead. Seven different Cowboys scored in the first nine minutes. The Cowboys led by as many as 11 (13-4) on an 8-0 run.
McNeese finished with a 23-10 edge in fastbreak points despite NSU holding a 17-7 advantage in points off turnovers as the Demons committed just eight against a Cowboys squad that ranked Top 25 nationally in forcing turnovers.
The Cowboys built their largest lead at 13 (31-18) before NSU executed a methodical run throughout the latter stages of the first half.
The Demons went on a meandering 21-11 over a seven-minute stretch that included five Teasett points and four each from Larry Owens and Cedric Garrett to slash McNeese’s lead to 42-39.
After starting 7-28 from the field, NSU made six of its final eight shots to help close the halftime gap to 44-39.
Saturday was the midpoint of the SLC season, and the Demons finished the first half 3-4.
But the Demons will get five of their last seven conference games at home after playing just two of the first seven in Prather Coliseum.
NSU will run this week back, except in Natchitoches.
The Demons will host HBU on Thursday and McNeese on Saturday.
“We’ll find a way to bounce back,” McConathy said. “It’ll be nice having so many home games in the second half of the schedule.
“We’re still a young team, and we have to understand when you miss on plays at any point in the game, it can affect the outcome.”
Photo: Matt Vines/NSU Photographic Services