Cellar dwellers: Cowboys, Cards fight to get out

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, February 2, 2023

With their season plummeting on life support, the Cowboys look to find hope against a rival they have already beaten twice.

Lamar comes back to the Legacy Center for tonight’s Battle of the Border, which has been renamed, for now, the Duel of Despair. The loser will have sole possession of last place in the Southland Conference.

McNeese State has the knowledge of two wins against the Cardinals (6-16) already this season, but those seem long ago as the Cowboys (5-17) bring a seven-game losing streak into the 7:30 p.m. tip-off. Both teams are 2-7 in league play halfway through the SLC schedule.

Email newsletter signup

The Cowboys are trying to avoid their first eight-game losing streak since finishing the 2016-17 season with eight consecutive losses.

With eight of the league’s 10 teams making the postseason tournament, tonight’s loser will be left in a rough spot.

“Every game is a must win,” said McNeese head coach John Aiken, whose team has won once since the start of the new year. “Every game is a one-game playoff.

“The first half did not go as we had planned. We understand the moment. They know there are a ton of games left against the teams we are battling.”

New Orleans (6-14, 3-6) is holding down the eighth spot and has two games against McNeese.

Trea English led McNeese in both of the earlier games with Lamar, scoring 17 points in a 66-57 nonconference win in Lake Charles and 14 in an 81-62 beatdown in Beaumont, Texas.

In the two games, the Cowboys outscored Lamar by 48 points from behind the 3-point line. The Cardinals were 9 of 41 (21.9 percent). Meanwhile, McNeese hit 25 of 57 (43.8 percent).

“It is hard to beat a team three times in one season,” Aiken said. “We are going to fight like heck. We understand what is at stake.”

Lamar, despite losing three straight, has been playing better of late, Aiken said.

“Their freshman have grown up,” he said. “They are a different team now.”

The Cardinals, who are 0-9 on the road, have 6-foot-10 freshman center Janko Bulajic in the rotation. He scored 12 points in 24 minutes last time out and did not play in either of the earlier games against the Cowboys.

“He makes them different,” Aiken said.

That will hurt against the smaller four-guard lineup the Cowboys deploy.