Wells, Shumate lead Cowboys past UT-Martin

Published 5:28 pm Saturday, December 2, 2023

As Cowboy fans anxiously await the debut of Will Wade, the McNeese State basketball team marches on.

Saturday the Cowboys reached another program high point by knocking off Tennessee-Martin 91-80 inside the Legacy Center.

The win improved McNeese to 7-2 on the young season and was their fourth triumph of a non-conference Division I already. The Cowboys haven’t done that in 30 years.

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“We are going to keep knocking down milestones,” said Brandon Chambers, who was serving as the acting head coach for the fifth and final time.

Chambers finished his time on the hot seat 3-2.

“I didn’t sleep too well after the two losses,” Chambers said. 

Vernon Hamilton will coach the Cowboys in their final game Tuesday before Wade returns from his 10-game suspension. 

For the second straight game, Shahada Wells was the top Cowboy. The transfer guard from TCU finished with a game-high 25 points. He also had eight rebounds, six assists, and four steals.

Wells hit on 11-of-16 from the field, scoring 15 points over the last 14 minutes. He also had four assists and three rebounds during that time to help seal the victory.

“I knew I had to get more aggressive so we would win the game,” said Wells. “I want to do what I can to help us win.”

Wells, who scored 36 the game before at Alabama-Birmingham, has 61 points this week in the Cowboys’ two victories.

Christian Shumate, himself coming off a big game with 21 rebounds at UAB, had 22 points and seven rebounds against the Skyhawks (5-4). That included four dunks after he had just four points against the Blazers.

“It felt good to see the ball go through the hoop,” said Shumate. “We got so many guys who can who can produce I don’t have to every night.”

Omar Cooper had 11 points and DJ Richards came off the bench to score 10 for the Cowboys who committed just four turnovers. Their first didn’t come until just under three minutes were left in the first half.

“Coach tells us to always value the ball,” Wells said. 

McNeese also shared the ball, handing out 16 assists on 34 made shots.

The Skyhawks were led by Jacob Crews who scored 22 points. Justus Jackson added 17 but they never got closer than nine points in the second half and never led in the game.

“This was a great game for our guys,” said Chambers. “We have a very connected group who share the ball. They deserve the right to win. They have put in the work.”

McNeese took complete control of the game with a 9-0 run over a 1:19 span late in the first half. Shumate led the way with a pair of dunks off alley-oop passes off turnovers. 

The first came from Wells and the second was delivered by Cooper. The spurt gave McNeese its biggest lead of the game, 38-20, with 4:52 remaining before halftime.

“I tell the guys put it up by the rim and I will go get it,” said Shumate.

The Skyhawks finished the half with the final four points to cut the deficit to 13 (49-36) at the break.

The only thing that kept UT-Martin that close was its 3-point shooting. The Skyhawks launched 17 bombs from behind the arc, connecting on eight for 24 of their points.

UT-Martin hit 16-of-37 for the game but had very little offense on the inside.

The Cowboys will be back in the Legacy Center Tuesday night for their final non-Division I game of the season. They will take on Mississippi University for Women starting at 7 p.m.

That will be the last game with Wade on the bench. He will return against Southern Mississippi on Dec. 13.