(Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, January 31, 2013 9:39 AM
Two days after its highest-percentage shooter, Ledrick Eackles, left the team, McNeese State put together one of the worst offensive performances in school history in a 59-39 loss to Stephen F. Austin.
The Cowboys shot 13 of 53 (24.5 percent) from the field and had tied their lowest scoring effort of the shot-clock era on Wednesday night at the Lake Charles Civic Center. The Lumberjacks (17-2, 8-1 Southland) went into the game with the nation’s best scoring defense and left it in even better shape.
Only a Brandon Regis free throw with 1.1 seconds left prevented the Cowboys (8-11, 2-7) from setting a new mark for modern offensive futility. The previous low of 39 points also came against SFA, though it was in 2008.
“You take a tough defensive team — they’re not 17-2 because they can’t play. And we just didn’t shoot the ball well,” said McNeese coach Dave Simmons. “We had some good looks and when we missed those easy ones, with that went our confidence level.”
Rebounding presented as much of a problem for McNeese as shooting.
Lumberjacks forward Taylor Smith nearly had as many rebounds (18) as the Cowboys did as a team (22). The Cowboys had seven offensive rebounds on their 40 missed shots.
Smith also had 21 points and six blocked shots.
“Smith is very efficient,” Simmons said. “He doesn’t put it on the floor much. He has great footwork. We’ve played the two best offensive post players in the conference back-to-back.”
Oral Roberts’ Damen Bell-Holter scored 22 points against the Cowboys on Saturday.
As bad as it was, a strong effort by the Cowboys in the second half prevented things from getting much, much worse. McNeese scored nine points in the first half, putting them on a pace to challenge the Division I record for fewest points in the shot-clock era (20) set by Saint Louis in 2008.
“Nine points in a half?” Simmons said. “That’s always going to get you behind the 8-ball.”
McNeese made a run to cut the deficit to 36-27 midway through the second half, giving Simmons a sense of hope going forward.
“I’m proud. They didn’t quit,” Simmons said. “That’s the thing you can’t do. We’re gonna keep working. We’ll get it figured out. We just need to make the tournament, and then everyone starts over fresh. But we have to win some games to make sure we’re in position to make the tournament.”
The Cowboys didn’t get any closer, though, as Smith single-handedly put the game away for the Lumberjacks. Smith scored eight of SFA’s 11 points in a run that extended the lead to 14.