Fading fast: Cowboys need sense of urgency

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Since starting conference play with two impressive double-digit victories, the Cowboys have hit hard times.

Five consecutive losses have them tied for last place in the Southland with three of their next four games on the road.

How quickly things have turned.

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Three of the five losses have come on the newly named Joe Dumars Court home floor in front of decent-sized crowds.

McNeese leads the league in attendance just over a third of the way through SLC play. However, with the postseason tournament headed to Lake Charles in a little more than a month, the Cowboys aren’t taking advantage of their home court.

What is just as frustrating to the program is how the streak has come about. In each of the five games the Cowboys were within striking distance or had the lead only to falter at closing time.

“I think we are close,” said head coach John Aiken. “I think we are really close to turning it around.

“We just have to find ways to make plays at the end.”

That has clearly been the problem. Last Saturday McNeese could not get the ball inbounded under the basket with 4 seconds left while down two in a loss to Nicholls State.

The 5-second call was the second on the Cowboys while trying to inbound the ball in the game. They wound up losing 71-68.

That has been the trend for McNeese during the skid. The Cowboys have shown they play hard until the end, but close is all they are getting. Mistakes at crunch time are crushing their chances.

“I hate it for our guys,” Aiken said. “I like how we battled. I just wish we could finish it off.”

The troubles began against Texas A&M-Commerce when the Cowboys led 52-44 with 12:50 remaining on their home floor.

The Lions outscored McNeese 28-20 to tie the score at 72 at the end of regulation. The Cowboys even needed a Trae English shot with 1.2 seconds left to gain overtime.

Commerce won 82-80 as Zach Scott missed a desperation heave from beyond half court at the buzzer and the streak had begun.

Next the Cowboys were down 52-50 at Northwestern State with 10:40 left. A week earlier McNeese had beaten the Demons at home.

The Demons outscored McNeese 37-25 from there for a 15-point victory.

At home against Houston Christian, the Cowboys were tied at 60 with 8:46 remaining. Outscored 30-21 to close and the streak was at three.

Back on the road at Nicholls last Thursday, the Cowboys were within 52-51 with 9:59 to go. A 21-13 deficit from there gave the Colonels a 73-64 victory. Four consecutive losses.

Then Saturday, up at home 54-50 with 9:59 remaining. This time the difference was 21-14 with Nicholls scoring the game’s last three points.

All that has left the Cowboys (5-15) 2-5 in the league with 11 regular-season games remaining.

If they want to play beyond that the Cowboys need to find a way to win games at the wire. If not, they will be watching the SLC Tournament from their own stands.