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McNeese State's Desharick Guidry puts up the shot over Houston Baptist's Cody Joyce on Saturday in the first half. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

McNeese State's Desharick Guidry puts up the shot over Houston Baptist's Cody Joyce on Saturday in the first half. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

Hardy dunk wins game

Last Modified: Sunday, January 19, 2014 2:52 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

McNeese State opened Saturday’s game against Houston Baptist with a burst of energy, and finished it with an atomic blast.

Kevin Hardy’s thunderous dunk with 7.2 seconds remaining lifted the Cowboys to a 70-68 win over the Huskies at Burton Coliseum. Hardy took off from the high block and threw down over three helpless Huskies to give McNeese the win.

Though the Cowboys started the possession planning to hold for the last shot in regulation, Hardy saw an opportunity to score he could not pass up.

“I waited and waited. Then with 11 seconds left I saw (the man on me) starting to back up,” Hardy said. “I wanted to keep him up because the closer he was to me, the easier it would be to get by him. But once he started backing up, I knew I needed to attack. And when I made my move, I knew I had to finish strong because they had two big men down there.”

For McNeese (6-12, 4-2 Southland) the thrilling win was a sorely needed response to Thursday night’s uninspired 77-61 loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

“People that are concerned about this program said, ‘Coach we didn’t have any ‘oomph’ to us (Thursday),” said Cowboys coach Dave Simmons. “You always worry about college kids eating properly, getting plenty of rest. But I said, ‘Guys, we have to make sure we come out with more energy.’ And we did.”

Part of the inspiration came from the person whom the Cowboys are calling their newest team member.

Bowen Johnson, an 8-year-old from Westlake, will spend the rest of the season with the team after being introduced to them Saturday. Johnson suffered life-threatening burns in a 2008 house fire and has endured dozens of surgeries since.

Unprompted, senior guard Ledrick Eackles said meeting Johnson gave the Cowboys an extra step against the Huskies.

“That brought it out of us to have a nice push at the beginning of the game,” Eackles said. “A lot of people may say, ‘Well, McNeese is doing something for a kid.’ But really, Bowen is doing more for us.”

Eackles was clearly inspired early on, nailing 6 of 7 3-point attempts in the first half. His 30-footer at the halftime buzzer sent the Cowboys into the locker room with a 42-34 lead.

“That’s the best half he’s had,” Simmons said. “We weren’t trying to force it to him. We let it come to him running some picks and off of some sets.”

HBU (4-14, 1-5) switched to a box-and-one defense to limit Eackles to one bucket in the second half. Adrian Fields (10 points) and Hardy (13) were able to help fill that scoring void.

“It’s a team game, and the other four on the floor have to do something when they use gimmick defenses on us,” Simmons said.  

McNeese led for the first 37 minutes until Reveal Chukwujekwu hit a 3-pointer that put HBU up 66-64.

“We had the confidence we were better than the team we were on the court with,” Hardy said. “When they hit the 3, I turned to Desharick (Guidry) and said, ‘We’re still going to win this game.’ And he gave me that look of confidence back. I knew we were going to pull it out.”

Back-to-back buckets by Guidry allowed McNeese to retake the lead, but the Huskies tied the score on a pair of Cody Joyce free throws with 26 seconds left.

It took more than a few minutes to play out the final 7 seconds after Hardy’s dunk.

Brandon Regis’ attempt to snag HBU’s inbounds pass resulted in him flying into the scorer’s table and taking out the replay review monitor. Officials had to wait for the monitor to be rebooted before restarting the game.

Rob Lewis got off a last-second 3-point attempt, but solid defense by Hardy helped assure that it harmlessly hit the front of the rim.

Caleb Crayton led HBU with 18 points, while Joyce added 15.

The Cowboys won the rebounding battle 39-35, the first time they’ve outrebounded an opponent since the conference opener against Southeastern Louisiana.

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