The Cowgirls (9-6, 2-2 Southland Conference) scored the game’s first nine points. But Lamar (8-7, 3-1) quickly fought back, going on a 13-2 run through the middle of the first half to take command.
McNeese struggled to handle Lamar’s press in the first half and the Cardinals picked McNeese for eight steals.
“Jayln (Johnson) played really tough and handled the pressure well,” said McNeese head coach Brooks Donald Williams. “We made a great adjustment in the second half. I thought our guards did a good job of adjusting and coming to meet the pass and help Jayln out.”
Lamar held its largest lead of the first half with less than 4 minutes to play, at 38-27. McNeese cut the deficit to 38-31 by halftime and continued its run into the second half.
The Cowgirls raced to a 44-42 lead with 15:30 to play, but the enthusiasm was short-lived.
Lamar converted three and-one plays, including one four-point conversion, to take a 61-53 lead and the uphill battle proved too steep for McNeese to climb again.
“For about 30 minutes, we gave (effort),” Donald Williams said. “We fought and our upperclassmen did an outstanding job. Our returners really fought hard, but we’ve got to get that younger bunch matching that intensity and effort level every day on every play. At times we did.
“We were certainly embarrassed about how we finished the game. That’s not what our program stands (for) and it’s not what we’re going to tolerate. We all expect more. We just didn’t finish it off.”
McNeese had four scorers in double digits, led by Johnson’s 17 points, which tied a season-high. Johnson knocked down three treys.
“They were just leaving me open and my teammates were finding me, so I was scoring,” she said.
McNeese shot 34.4 percent from the field while Lamar landed at 47.2 percent.
“When we gave some really good team effort, we looked good defensively,” Donald Williams said. “(Lamar is) a very good team. They’ve got really good shooters and we knew that going in and we knew if we didn’t follow the game plan, we’d get burned and we did.”
Lamar was led by Gia Ayers’ game-high 20 points. The Cardinals also got a spark off the bench from Shauna Long, who scored 18 of the Cardinals’ 21 points by non-starters.
McNeese returns home to face Texas A&M- Corpus Christi at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.