McNeese hosts Centenary tonight in basketball doubleheader

Home is where the heart is. And where the banners will be.

McNeese State’s basketball teams return home for the season’s first doubleheader following a tough road trip, with the Cowgirls tipping off at 5:30 p.m. and the Cowboys 30 minutes following the conclusion of that game. Both will be facing their counterparts from Centenary.

Between the games there will be a salute to last year’s success, with banners from the Cowboys CIT bid and the Cowgirls Southland title and NCAA tournament bid being unveiled. It’s the second straight year that both teams have something to add to the Burton Coliseum rafters.

“We’re excited like it’s the first time it’s happened all over again,” said Cowgirls coach Brooks Donald Williams. “Some kids have never hung a banner. It was a motivating factor for this season, to watch that go down again.”

The Cowgirls will also be introducing an alternate gold uniform for the game.

For both teams, there is work to be done if there is to be yet another banner unveiling at Burton next year.

The Cowgirls (3-2) are coming off a 68-59 overtime loss to Southern Miss in the Lady Eagles Thanksgiving Classic. The physical contest saw the Cowgirls attempt 6 free throws to 25 for Southern Miss, but that’s not the disparity that bothers Donald Williams the most. Southern Miss outrebounded McNeese 35-23.

“There were a lot of things we could have done differently,” Donald Williams said. “If we boxed out better on a couple rebounds, then the free-throw margin doesn’t matter.”

The Cowboys (1-3) are trying to snap a three-game losing streak with losses at LSU, Southeast Missouri and Ole Miss.

Offensively, McNeese has some of the worst stats in the country through its first four games. Out of the 344 teams in Division I, the Cowboys are 327th in points per game (55.8), 336th in assists per game (9), 314th in field goal percentage (.381) and 315th in rebounds per game (30.5).

“This process is not one thing that we’re going to solve real quick. It’s a thing of patience,” said Cowboys coach Dave Simmons. “It’s where we are at the end of the season that’s the most important thing. We wanted to build some toughness on this road trip. It’s tested us. We’ve got a lot of improvement to do, but there’s no question we’re doing it... we’re not scoring enough points. We’re getting open shots. We’re just not hitting those shots. It’s a question of confidence. You know your team is counting on you. You’ve got to relax a little bit and get it in the bucket.”

Coming back to Burton — and playing an opponent that does not have a significant height advantage — figures to give the Cowboys a chance to snap out of it.

“The shooters have just got to find some type of rhythm,” said shooting guard Jeremie Mitchell. “Lately we haven’t been shooting the ball well. The main thing is to find a rhythm.”