Cowboys, Wells blaze past UAB

Published 9:47 pm Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Now that’s making a statement.

Behind a dominating second half, the Cowboys rolled to their most impressive victory in the young Will Wade era Tuesday night.

For the second time in seven games, McNeese State went into a tough Mid-Major environment and left with a victory.

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This time the Pokes thumped Alabama-Birmingham 81-60 in Bartow Arena. Under current head coach Andy Kennedy, the Blazers (4-3) entered the game a whopping 50-7 on their home floor over the last four seasons.

The loss is the worst at home for UAB since an 87-66 defeat at the hands of Temple on Nov. 24, 2013.

Shahada Wells led the way for McNeese, scoring 26 of his game-high 36 points during a remarkable second half. Down 31-30 at the break the Pokes (6-2) rolled up 51 points over the final 20 minutes to turn the game into a rout.

“An amazing feeling,” said acting head coach Vernon Hamilton. “I feel really good about tonight and that we played to our standards.”

This was the second time in the last 10 days Wells scored over 30. He had a career-high 37 in a two-point loss to Western Carolina on Nov. 18.

“He was the one player Coach Wade said we had to get last spring,” said Hamilton. “He can score on anybody.”

Wells, a transfer from Texas Christian, hit 13-of-20 shots from the floor, including 4-of-6 from behind the 3-point line. He also made 6-of-7 free throws.

While he struggled from the floor, finishing with four points just 2-of-10 shooting Christian Shumate ended with 21 rebounds, dominating the glass on both ends.

Antavion Collum also made four threes as he finished with 20 points.

“I think we can play in any conference in America,” said Hamilton. “Our one goal is to make the NCAA Tournament.”

McNeese used a 16-3 run midway through the second half to take control for good. The lead swelled to 65-48 when Omar Cooper gave up his own layup to pass the ball off the backboard for Shumate, who threw down a thunderous 2-hand dunk with 6:15 remaining.

That seemed to put the exclamation point on the victory.

Cooper was starting for Javohn Garcia, who was ill and didn’t make the trip. However, Dionjahe Thomas was back in the lineup following a back injury that forced him to miss the first seven games. Thomas, a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward, scored four points in eight minutes.

McNeese will begin a four-game homestand Saturday when Tennessee-Martin. Three of the four games will be against Mid-Majors before they finish the year off with a game at Big Ten Michigan on Dec. 30.

The homestand will be highlighted by the return of Wade to the bench following his 10-game suspension.

Wade’s first game back will come on Wednesday, Dec. 13 inside the Legacy Center against Southern Mississippi.

The following Sunday the Cowboys will host Louisiana-Lafayette in a much anticipated match against their I-10 rivals.

“I’m looking forward to getting back,” Wade has said. “I like practices but I do miss the games.”

Tuesday’s game is one to remember.