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McNeese State head men's basketball coach Dave Simmons. (Associated Press)

McNeese State head men's basketball coach Dave Simmons. (Associated Press)

Cowboys look to end road woes at Cental Arkansas

Last Modified: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 6:37 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

This season, 70 has been the magic number for McNeese State.

When the Cowboys (8-8, 2-4 Southland) have scored at least 70 points in a game, they are 8-0. When they are held below 70, they’re an ugly 0-8.

“We’ve got to put up points,” said McNeese head coach Dave Simmons. “We’re 8-0 when we score 70, and that’s the name of the game. Try to get to get good, quality shots. More shots than your opponents.”

Based on those numbers, Central Arkansas may be McNeese’s ideal opponent. The Bears (6-10, 1-5) host the Cowboys tonight and play the type of up-tempo game that is generally suited to Simmons’ squad.

Coached by former Arkansas star Corliss Williamson, the Bears’ full-court defense is allowing an average of 77.8 points per game — 342nd in the country out of 345 teams.

While that stat behooves McNeese, playing on the road has not. The Cowboys have lost four straight on the road since defeating Texas Tech on Dec. 16.

“At home, they are very good,” Simmons said of UCA. “We were very fortunate to beat them there last year. They’re talented. They’ll have a good crowd. And it’s a must-win situation for both of us.”

On the surface, hitting the 70-point mark seems entirely a product of shooting well. But in McNeese’s case it is more about creating easy points in transition as the result of defensive plays.

The Cowboys overwhelmed Lamar 51-19 in the second half of Saturday’s 74-50 win, with 18 of those points coming off turnovers.

“When you get blocks, Kevin (Hardy) got some steals in there, the defensive pressure was very good in the half-court,” Simmons said. “We rebounded the ball better. And those blocks turn into easy baskets. I thought that was a difference. When you don’t rebound well you have to do something different. Defensive pressure was very good, and hopefully we can continue that trend. Obviously it paid off against Lamar.”

Simmons said rebounding goes hand-in-hand with defense.

“When you rebound the basketball it’s easy to get the ball in transition,” Simmons said. “That’s our best weapon. You won’t have to get in the half-court and grind with a tough basketball team.”

Tonight’s game opens a two-game road trip for the Cowboys that will mark the longest trek of the year in conference play. McNeese heads to Tulsa, Okla., to face Oral Roberts on Saturday, making a journey of 1,250 miles round-trip.

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