Record crowd sees Cowboy muscle past Islanders

Published 7:59 pm Saturday, February 10, 2024

In a big-boy game, McNeese State’s big men stepped up at the biggest of moments.

The trio of Antavion Collum, Christian Shumate, and C.J. Felder made key plays down the stretch as the Cowboys won a physical and chippy showdown over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Saturday.

The 74-67 victory played before a Legacy Center record crowd of 4,324, gives McNeese its first season sweep ever over the Islanders, who entered the game tied for second in the Southland Conference.

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“Before this year I have never beaten them,” said Shumate.

McNeese had lost 16 straight to the Islanders entering the season.

With the win the Cowboys improved to 21-3 overall and 10-1 in the SLC. Corpus fell to 14-9, 7-3.

The win puts McNeese just one shy of the program record for a season since moving to the Division I level. It also was the 16th victory in the Cowboys’ last 17 games.

Corpus lost for the first time since McNeese beat them 62-61 in the first meeting on Jan. 22 in Texas.

“We got real dogs on this team,” said Shumate. “We won’t back down. We had the mindset going in it was going to be physical.”

Shumate finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks, and two dunks, including one of his best in the final minutes. Collum led the Cowboys with 14 points, five in crunch time. Felder added 10 points.

“Our big guys did a nice job against their big men,” said McNeese head coach Will Wade.  “Their big men are really physical and I was pleased to see how our guys responded. Our big guys stepped up.”

The game featured 49 fouls, two flagrant ones, and a pair of technicals. There were also a couple of warnings and one or two flare-ups.

“Hard-nosed, tough ball game,” said Wade. “It was heated on both sides and it was chippy. This shows we can win a lot of different ways.”

The two teams struggled to find any rhythm through the first half, but the Cowboys found their game in time to grab a 30-21 lead at the break. The two clubs combine to miss all 11 shots from long range in the opening 20 minutes.

The game opened up after that as McNeese got its running game going. Shumate’s first dunk with 11:26 remaining put the Cowboys up 52-37.

However, the Islanders kept coming back, but Collum scored five quick points and then Shumate gave McNeese a 63-51 with some flash.

Shumate took a pass from Shahada Wells and in traffic soared for a double-clutch, two-hand windmill dunk with 2:59 remaining. It set the crowd wild and led to a dust-up between the teams eight seconds later.

“That might be No. 1,” Shumate said of his career dunks. “I didn’t really think about it much until I saw it after the game.”

His double-double was the 27th of his career.

“Christian was really active for us from the start,” said Wade. “He played big.”

Garry Clark finished with 16 points to lead the Islanders while Dayne Prim added 15.

McNeese will be back in action Monday night when the Cowboys travel to Houston Christian for a 7 p.m. match.