No worries, Cowboys win tune-up for SLC opener

Published 10:10 am Thursday, January 13, 2022

The past met the present Wednesday with all eyes set on the future.

Playing for the first time in the Ralph O. Ward Memorial Arena since Feb. 17, 1972, the Cowboys took their last step toward the return to the reconstructed Legacy Center.

On Saturday the Cowboys will play in the $40-plus million on-campus arena for the first time 686 days. The arena was destroyed by Hurricanes Laura and Delta in 2020.

“We are excited to be getting back in our home gym,” said McNeese head coach John Aiken.

But first the Cowboys had to take care of Arlington Baptist Wednesday afternoon in the Rec Complex.

The game — open to students only — proved little more than a tune-up for McNeese, which improved to 6-11 heading into Saturday’s Southland Conference regular-season opener against Houston Baptist (4-9).

The Cowboys, who snapped a two-game losing streak, improved 4-0 at home — all against non-Division I schools — and have scored 100 points or more in three of those wins.

The 120-44 victory in front of fans sitting on chairs and couches courtside, along with some joggers on the track above circling the court, was just what the Cowboys needed.

“We wanted to establish ourselves right away and have a dominant performance,” said graduate senior Kellon Taylor.

McNeese set five school records and tied another while scoring 120 points, tying as the second-most points recorded in school history. The Cowboys led 67-23 at the half with the 67 points matching the record for most points in a half (67 vs. Champion Christian last season in a 140-37 win).

New records set in the game include: most offensive rebounds (37), most points scored in the paint (84), most second-chance points scored (48), rebounding margin (plus-61, 77-16), and fewest rebounds allowed (16).

“A great team win,” said freshman Christian Schumate. “We wanted to get better and now we are ready for Saturday.”

Three Cowboys finished with double-doubles. Schumate led the way with career highs in points (22) and rebounds (17). He had five of McNeese’s 10 dunks including a highlight reel-worthy rebound in the second half.

“I always go to the boards hard,” said Schumate, who called his thunderous dunk “fun.”

Taylor had 14 points and 13 rebounds while Myles Lewis added 15 and 10, respectively. Brendan Medley-Bacon helped with 20 points and eight boards in 17 minutes of play.

The game was over in the first 12 minutes, as the Cowboys took a 40-14 lead on Medley-Bacon’s 3-point play. The advantage swelled to 67-23 at the half.

McNeese hit the 100-point mark on Trevor Passmore’s 3-point shot with just under 8 minutes left.

Arlington Baptist (4-8), a Southwest Region Division II member of the National Christian College Athletic Association that belongs to the Association of Christian College Athletics, was a late substitute for Dallas Christian, which was forced to cancel a second time on McNeese with a COVID-19 outbreak.