McNeese seeks 5-0 start

Published 10:00 am Saturday, November 18, 2023

After three consecutive home poundings of non-Division I foes, the Cowboys are moving up a level today.

McNeese State will take its first 4-0 start in 51 years to undefeated Western Carolina for the first of four consecutive games away from home against mid-major opponents.

“We are going to step up in weight class moving forward,” said first-year Cowboys head coach Will Wade, who is in the midst of serving a 10-game NCAA suspension. “We will need to be a lot better than we have been in these three home games.

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“We have to keep working to get better.”

The Cowboys will play three games over the next five days with two coming during a multi-team event at Louisiana Tech starting Tuesday.

“It is going to be a real challenge for us,” Wade said. “We need our bench for that.”

The bench was a big part of the Cowboys’ success early as they won their last three games by a combined total of 137 points. But Western Carolina (3-0), whose victories include a win at Notre Dame, will be a different type of game.

Last season the Catamounts beat McNeese 88-69 in Lake Charles during the Cowboys’ MTE event.

“They are a very good, older, veteran team,” Wade said. “They are very mature and play well together. This starts a very challenging part of our schedule.”

Tre Jackson had 21 points to lead WCU in last season’s victory over the Cowboys. McNeese was led by Christian Shumate who had 20 points and 11 rebounds.

This year the Catamounts are led by 6-foot-6 guard Vonterius Woolbright who is averaging 20.7 points a game.

“He is a really good player that can score the basketball,” Wade said. “He is going to test. This is as good a team as we will play away from home.”

McNeese has been able to get production from a bunch of players as four Cowboys average in double figures while Javohn Garcia is at 9.8 points a game. Four Cowboys have led the team in scoring over the first four games.

More impressively, McNeese is sharing the ball as the Cowboys average 18.3 assists a game.

“Assists are contagious,” Wade said. “That’s what you want, to assist on a higher number of baskets. The meaning behind those numbers is we are sharing the basketball and playing together.”

One thing the Cowboys have done is buy into their role of turning the program around, buying into the accomplishment of winning their first four games.