Pokes go island hopping: Shumate’s tip beats buzzer, Corpus Christi

Published 9:00 pm Monday, January 22, 2024

The McNeese miracle lives.

Rallying from 18 points down in the second half, the Cowboys found a way to keep their winning streak alive Monday night in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Christian Shumate’s tip-in with .3 seconds remaining lifted the Pokes to their 12 straight victory, a 62-61 thriller over two-time defending Southland Conference champion Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

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The victory gives McNeese State a two-game lead in the league race as the Cowboys improved to 17-2 overall and 6-0 in the SLC. The Islanders fell to 11-8, 4-2 despite going on a 20-0 run at one point.

The win also gives McNeese its best start in program history, matching that set 50 years ago. 

“Just wild,” said McNeese head coach Will Wade. “Just an incredible play. Never easy to come back from 18 points down but our guys never quit.

“Tonight wasn’t easy but it was a great way to showcase our program on national T.V.”

Shumate followed a miss by Antavion Collum after he had rebounded a Mike Sauders’ missed free throw that would have tied the game at 61 with four seconds remaining. 

“We put our two bigs in down low and they did a great job keeping it alive,” said Wade.

Shumate, who missed two key free throws that would have given McNeese the lead late, made up for it in a big way.

“Coach always says it is about the next play,” said Shumate. “I missed some free throws down the stretch, but it’s the next play.”

Shumate finished with just eight points but had 13 rebounds, his biggest coming at the finish but there was still some question about the outcome. The officials went to the television replay to make sure Shumate’s tip came before the buzzer. 

The Islanders managed just a long desperation heave at the end that was well off the mark.

The win not only extended one streak it put an end to another. McNeese snapped a 16-game losing skid at the hands of Corpus.

“We are a relentless team,” said Shumate. “We find a way to dig out of things and grind it out.”

The Pokes were down 48-30 with 13:34 left when Jordan Roberts, who led all scorers with 18 points, hit a runner. Roberts had fueled the Islander run with 12 points in the first seven minutes of the second half.

That seemed to wake up the Cowboys who began their long road back thanks in large part to DJ Richards. The guard came off the bench to score the next nine McNeese points including a four-point play, his third straight game with that feat. 

Richards finished with 12 points, all in the second half, to lead the Pokes. Shahada Wells and Javohn Garcia each added 10 for the Cowboys.

McNeese continued to crawl back into the game and finally tied it up on a Shumate bucket 58-58 with 3:18 left. However, the Cowboys could not get the lead until Shumate’s rebound basket just before the buzzer for the win.

“It wasn’t easy, it’s never easy on the road,” said Wade. “At the end of the day, we found a way.”

McNeese took its biggest lead of the first half when Collum his second three-pointer of the game put the Pokes up 25-19 with 7:14 remaining. But the Islanders responded with a 9-2 run to take a 28-27 lead.

The Cowboys managed just four points after Collum’s jumper, with baskets by Cameron Jones and Wells accounting for the baskets.

However, Corpus managed just four points in the final three minutes as well to lead 31-30 at the break.

McNeese will return home for a pair of games in the upcoming days. First, they will take on New Orleans Saturday at the Legacy Center before a rematch with Northwestern State Monday night.