Fading Cowboys get rematch with Nicholls

Published 10:00 am Saturday, January 21, 2023

The Cowboys’ margin for error continues to shrink.

Today they look for a measure of revenge in hopes of getting back into the Southland Conference basketball race, but time is starting to run out.

With a third of the SLC season in the books, McNeese State finds itself closer to last place (one game) than first (two) in a jumbled league.

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That’s why today’s rematch against Nicholls State is pivotal for the struggling Cowboys, who enter the game on a four-game losing streak.

After opening SLC play with a pair of victories, McNeese (5-14) has fallen to 2-4 in conference. They lost a 73-64 decision to the Colonels Thursday night in Thibodaux. It was the Cowboys’ sixth consecutive loss at the hands of the Colonels.

“I was really encouraged because our defense was better,” said McNeese head coach John Aiken. “We have made a few adjustments, but this is a big game coming up for us.”

Nicholls (9-9, 4-2) is one of four teams sitting atop the league standings. Meanwhile, McNeese is tied with Lamar for eighth in the 10-team league.

With only the top eight teams making the SLC postseason tournament, the Cowboys need to turn things around. It would be embarrassing for the Cowboys if the first year they are scheduled to host the tourney they didn’t make it.

“The league is crazy this year,” Aiken said. “To get a split with Nicholls would be huge.”

The game takes on greater importance when one considers the Cowboys play three of their next four away from Lake Charles. McNeese is 2-9 on the road.

“I don’t like the back-to-back games,” Aiken said. “It is hard for the kids to refocus. Hopefully we can turn that around.”

The Cowboys will have to try and stop Latrell Jones if they are to bounce back. Jones finished Thursday’s game with 23 points. His late rebound basket off a missed Colonels free throw was the biggest of plays for Nicholls.

“That was a heartbreaker,” Aiken said. “We had worked to get back to within four and he makes a great play. Give them credit, they made the plays down the stretch that were the difference.”

The Cowboys need to make more shots today. They made 7 of 24 from 3-point range Thursday. That had been a staple of their offense.

McNeese was 1-for-6 from distance in the second half.

“I think we will shoot better in our own gym,” Aiken said.

McNeese was the top 3-point shooting team in the Southland heading into the week.

Guard Zach Scott led four Cowboys in double figures with 15 points but the offense went cold in the final 4:30. The Cowboys managed four points over that stretch and didn’t score in the final 2:30.