Last Modified: Monday, January 07, 2013 10:09 PM
At this rate, the banners above Burton Coliseum don’t look like they’ll be adding any company next year.
McNeese showed its youth as it was run off its own floor by Nicholls State on Monday night, falling 78-61 in its conference home opener. It was the Colonels’ first win over the Cowgirls since the final game of the 2006-07 season — otherwise known as the last game before the start of the Brooks Donald Williams era.
McNeese (6-8, 1-2 Southland), picked by Southland Conference coaches and SIDs in the preseason to reach the NCAA tournament for the third straight year, looked more like a team that will have to fight its way into the conference tournament on Monday night.
“We took some steps back,” Donald Williams said. “A lot of it’s inexperience, and I understand that. But we have to get past that. It’s time for them to grow here and learn from these losses and the mistakes we’re making every couple games. It’s time to have a little more toughness and consistency.”
Quality defense, the thing McNeese has prided itself on in back-to-back conference title runs, was noticeably lacking against the Colonels (10-4, 2-1).
Nicholls shot 51.9 percent (28 of 54) from the field, including 56.5 percent (13 of 23) in the second half. Six Nicholls players scored in double-figures, led by Emani White’s 17 points.
“Obviously, we’re not playing very consistently on the defensive end,” Donald Williams said. “And that’s what happens when you don’t.”
McNeese also lacked consistency offensively. The Cowgirls were a meager 28.6 percent (28 of 70) from the field, including a combined 6-for-30 showing (20 percent) from the Baggett twins.
As poorly as the Cowgirls shot and defended, they may have rebounded even worse. Nicholls dominated the glass by a 47-32 margin, and finished with more defensive rebounds (38) than McNeese did total rebounds.
All-in-all, the McNeese team that jumped out to a 41-7 lead at Stephen F. Austin on Saturday was nowhere to be found. Senior guard Ashlyn Baggett, who scored a team-high 17 points, thinks the Cowgirls still have what it takes to perform at such a level.
“We’ve got a brand-new team and everyone’s trying to find their role,” Baggett said. “We have to pick up our intensity. We’re not being consistent. We have moments where we look like a championship team and have another moment where we’re not intense.”
Jayln Johnson came off the bench to score 13 points for McNeese, while Cecilia Okoye added 11 and Alaina Verdin scored 10.