Cowboys finish road trip at UAB

Published 10:59 am Monday, November 27, 2023

Having lost two of their last three, the Cowboys will try to bounce back Tuesday when they finish a four-game road trip against Mid-Major opponents.

McNeese State travels to Alabama-Birmingham for a battle with the Blazers, who are riding a four-game win streak. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in Bartow Arena.

“This will be a big challenge for us,” said McNeese head coach Will Wade. “They are a very good team that can run off points against you.”

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McNeese (5-2) is 2-2 against fellow Mid-Major programs with four of their next five games against like competition. All of those will be at home with Wade back on the bench for the final two after UAB.

“It will all change a week from Wednesday,” said Wade. “They (Cowboys) know it’s coming.”

McNeese is coming off a split during last week’s Multi-Team Event in Ruston, beating Texas State last Tuesday before falling to host Louisiana Tech the following day.
“We didn’t play well in either game,” said Wade. “We got to get tougher, stronger. We have to move the ball better.”

One thing is likely, the game will be close. Five of the Blazers’ six games have been decided by one possession with the other being a six-point victory over Furman.

At 4-2 UAB has been finding ways to win the close games. 

“They are good in those types of games,” said Wade. “We have to be able to execute better down the stretch. We will have to be able to play against their different defenses.”

UAB is led by junior guard Eric Gaines, who played his first two seasons under Wade at LSU. Gaines leads the Blazers in scoring at 15.2 points a game. 

“He is a tremendous player, very electric,” said Wade of the 6-foot-2 Gaines. “I enjoy watching him on tape. I’m not sure how much I will enjoy watching him on Tuesday.

“One thing, he is electric in the open floor. If he’s out in the open floor then we might be on the wrong side of Sportscenter.”

Senior forward Javian Davis, who played at both Alabama and Mississippi State, checks in at 12.3 points and 7.7 rebounds an outing. At 6-9, 265 he will challenge the Pokes on the inside. 

“He is a load,” said Wade. “He draws a bunch of fouls.”

McNeese will counter with three players in double figures led by guard Shahada Wells at 15.9. Christian Shumate follows at 12.4 points and nine rebounds a game and Antavion Collum averages 10.9. 

Despite being off to a solid start Wade wants to see the Cowboys get even better.

“We have a lot of work to do,” he said. “We are not as good as our parts right now. That’s on me as a coach.”

After UAB McNeese will return home for a Saturday game against Tennessee-Martin.