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Gazzolo: Everyone in Burton left reaching for jackets

Last Modified: Saturday, January 19, 2013 7:50 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

It figured to be a cold day in … Burton Coliseum before Lamar would come in and sweep a pair of games from McNeese State.

Yet Saturday proved to be just that, a cold day in Burton, just not that cold.

Lamar and McNeese split their basketball double header with the Cowboys rallying from a frigid first half to race past the Cardinals.

As for the Cowgirls, they started cold, missing jumpers they usually sink with ease and despite heating up in the end, saw their hopes of winning the regular season conference title hit the deep freeze.

Saturday’s split decision means both McNeese teams will make the Southland Conference tournament at season’s end, but neither can be considered a favorite. Not right now.

Both clubs have work to do if they want to make any run at the postseason.

As for the real chill, well that came from inside Burton itself, helping to cool off an intense and heated rivalry between the two schools before anything really got started.

Just last year, these two men’s teams squared off in the SLC tournament championship. Neither one resembled a club ready to return to such heights.

Nor do the Cowgirls, who have won the SLC each of the last two seasons.

But it was the chill in the arena itself which stole at least a good portion of the show.

To say it is cold inside the barn is putting things mildly. Coaches were more willing to put their jackets on rather than rip them off when things get tight.

Even the McNeese dance team appeared in jackets for their last routine.

Despite a good crowd on hand, the only time it really warmed up inside the building was when they opened the doors to let a truck out that had been part of a promotion.

“It was cold as (heck),” said McNeese guard Kevin Hardy. “When it is this cold in here it takes you some time to get loose, to get going. After awhile you are fine, but when we first come out it’s cold.”

You would think that with 2.5 million dollars in renovations done to Burton in the offseason somebody would have thought to include a heater in the budget.

Apparently one of the heaters in the building is out, though it is hard to believe that there was one working.

Not one of the four teams that played Saturday started the first or second halves fast, making you believe it took time to heat up.

Instead, for the third straight set of home games, a chill was over the arena and crowd. This time, neither the Cowboys or Cowgirls could dust off the frost early.

Maybe that’s why Lamar was able to score on the power play. During a brutally ugly first half, the McNeese men came out of a timeout with just four players on the floor.

It was the most embarrassing moment of a pretty embarrassing first half.

But with their season in jeopardy of slipping into the abyss, the Cowboys came up with their best half, one that even found walk-on freshman Josh Jagneaux getting playing time.

You would have never believed that, or the win, was possible if you witnessed the first 20 minutes.

McNeese caught fire and scored 51 points after intermission, which was one more than Lamar could muster for the entire game.

It is hard to figure out just what the 74-50 win means in the long run. Or what the women’s 57-53 loss means as well.

Both teams seem to be searching for an identity.

The Cowboys might have found a leader in sophomore Kevin Hardy, who after a poor first half himself, led the comeback.

At one point of the second half, as McNeese grabbed the lead, Hardy either scored or threw a pass that directly led to 20 of 23 Cowboy points. That is what this team has been lacking.

As for the Cowgirls, they need role players to step up. They have their leader in Ashlyn Baggett, who finished with 20 points, 13 coming during a second-half rally that fell short.

The McNeese women need to find more balance, the men still search for leadership.

The rest of us inside Burton Saturday, were left reaching for our jackets.

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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