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(Kirk Meche / American Press)

(Kirk Meche / American Press)

Cowboys clinch berth in SLC tournament

Last Modified: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 11:55 AM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

Coaches often throw around the phrase “total team effort,” but perhaps at no time this season was that principle more apparent for McNeese State than in Tuesday’s 65-58 win over Southeastern Louisiana.

Everyone on the floor chipped in for the Cowboys, including a pair of previously seldom-used role players down the stretch, as McNeese (11-13, 5-9 Southland) won its second straight and third in four games.

“As far as the team, I couldn’t ask for putting a game together better by a group of guys who sacrificed for a win,” said McNeese coach Dave Simmons.

Combined with Lamar’s loss to Nicholls State on Tuesday, McNeese is assured of a spot in the SLC tournament. Now the focus for the Cowboys is on improving their position.

“Our attitude right now is to just keep winning games, build up our confidence and maybe pull some upsets in the tournament,” said Cowboys forward Desharick Guidry.

Three players scored in double figures for the Cowboys, led by point guard Dontae Cannon’s 19 points. Guidry added 17 points and nine rebounds, while Kevin Hardy finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Hardy’s biggest contribution may have come on the defensive end, where he hounded Lions leading scorer Brandon Fortenberry into 2-of-11 shooting from the field.

“My main focus was to lock in on him and make it tough for him to score tonight,” Hardy said. “He got away from me a couple times, but I tried to stay focused on keeping him in front of me and contesting every shot he took.”

Craig McFerrin led McNeese with 10 rebounds before fouling out. The Cowboys dominated SLU by a 38-26 margin on the glass.

“Outrebounding is what we came out to do tonight,” Guidry said. “Not allowing any second-chance points.”

SLU (10-14, 8-6) had two second-chance points in the game.

The free-throw line, a typical bugaboo for the Cowboys, was an area of strength. McNeese finished 15-for-19 from the line, making 14 of 15 in the second half.

“Coach tries to make us shoot 50 free throws every day,” Guidry said. “Sometimes even 100. So we’re all just getting better results.”

But in the end, the win may not have been possible without solid play from McNeese’s bench players with starters McFerrin and Jeremie Mitchell fouled out in the final 4 minutes.

Forward Peter Kpan and guard Keelan Garrett each stepped up in the clutch. Kpan helped limit SLU forward Roosevelt Johnson to five points, and Garrett hit a pair of free throws with 48 seconds left to put McNeese up 63-58.

“Peter’s a guy that took advantage of an opportunity,” Simmons said. “I say always be prepared for that opportunity, and he took advantage of it.”

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