(Kirk Meche / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, January 31, 2014 4:05 PMMcNeese State got a taste of the best the Southland Conference has to offer Thursday, and it was a bitter one.
The Cowgirls fell behind early and trailed all night, and Central Arkansas won 65-50.
“We didn’t really play defense at all,” said Cowgirls guard Allison Baggett. “We dug ourselves a hole that we had a lot of trouble getting out of. It was hard for us to recover.”
The game expanded the gap between Central Arkansas (13-6, 7-1 Southland) at the top of the conference and McNeese (11-8, 4-4 Southland), which is in seventh place in the league.
SLC Player of the Week Courtney Duever lived up to her billing, causing problems for McNeese with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
“Duever’s really good,” said McNeese coach Brooks Donald Williams. “She’s tough to guard. She’s a mismatch for almost everybody in the league. I think she’s hands down the best post kid in the league.”
The attention McNeese paid to her also allowed Central Arkansas role players a chance to shine. Sugar Bears guard Maggie Proffitt led all scorers with 17 points.
“We’ve got to get better on defense,” Baggett said. “We can’t win games without winning defense, no matter how good our offense looks or if we’re hitting shots. Our defense has to be the key to every win.”
Cecilia Okoye paced the Cowgirls with 15 points, while Allison Baggett added 14.
McNeese was outrebounded 38-26 and struggled defensively, allowing the Sugar Bears to finish with a 46.9 percent shooting performance from the field, including 50 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
“It just doesn’t feel important to us right now,” Donald Williams said. “All the losses come down to the same things — our energy, our effort, our defensive execution. Just coming out and beating people to loose balls, boxing out. We got killed on the boards tonight. It’s disappointing for our kids. We know we’re better than that.”
It was the lone meeting between the teams this season.
“These games where we only see somebody one time are extremely important,” Donald Williams said.
Despite the gap between the teams, the game was chippy throughout.
“We did a good job of maintaining our composure no matter what was said on the court,” Donald Williams said. “We have to be able to control our emotions whether we’re ahead or weather we’re losing, and I thought our kids did a good job — for the most part — of controlling our emotions in a big rivalry game.”
The Cowgirls get their last Civic Center game of the season at 1 p.m. Saturday, when they host Oral Roberts before playing seven of their final nine games on the road.