Cowboys to take on wounded birds Saturday

Published 11:44 am Friday, February 23, 2024

With a chance to wrap up a double-bye in the upcoming Southland Conference tournament, the Cowboys face a “dangerous” foe Saturday in the Legacy Center.

A wounded Incarnate Word team comes to McNeese State with a likely chip on its shoulder. Four of the Cardinals’ key contributors will be missing after they were suspended by the league for their part in Monday’s postgame brawl with Texas A&M-Commerce.

It leaves McNeese facing a great unknown when they tip off against the Cardinals at 4 p.m.

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“The suspensions don’t kneecap them,” said McNeese head coach Will Wade. “They will have something they want to prove. 

“This makes them a dangerous team, a dangerous game. We have to stay focused and not have a letdown.”

The Cowboys are 23-3, 12-1, and hold a three-game lead over three teams in the race for the regular season championship. It would be their first since 2011.

They have won 18 of their last 19 and are undefeated at home in 13 games and have already set the record for Division I wins in a season.

Incarnate Word 8-18, 3-10, is struggling just to make the postseason. Only the top eight teams make the tournament, which will take place next month in Lake Charles. UIW is currently in ninth place.

“We have to get one more,” said Wade. “The first step is to wrap up the double-bye. That is a huge advantage.”

McNeese will need a little help in some other places to wrap up the double-bye, but with five games left the Cowboys are in good shape. UIW is not.

The Cardinals will be without guards Elijah Davis, Alex Anderson, center Gabe Beny Til, and forward Marcus Glover. All are suspended for multiple games starting against McNeese.

While four of the five who started against McNeese in the first meeting, an 80-66 Cowboy victory back in January will play, Anderson, Davis, and Glover do combine to score 19.4 points a game for the Cardinals. The trio scored just 10 points against McNeese in San Antonio with Davis accounting for nine of those.

Sky Wicks and Dylan Hayman each had 10 points to lead UIW.

Wade wants to make sure his team doesn’t get caught up in anything but the game itself.

“We have to play to our standards no matter who we are playing against,” Wade said. “We have got a lot on the line. We have a lot to play for and that should be more engrossing to our guys.”  

Wade said McNeese will likely have to adjust to the officiating, which will likely be much tighter in the aftermath as the league could attempt to clamp down on physical play to lower the temperature. 

“Anytime there is an incident like that the natural reaction is to tighten the screws more,” he said. “More eyes will be on these games. I’m going to talk to our guys about it.”

Mike Saunders scored 20 points to lead the Cowboys in the first meeting while Christian Shumate added 13.

McNeese hopes to get guard Shahada Wells back going. Wells leads the Cowboys in scoring and is second in the conference with a 17.1 average, but his points per game have gone down.

Wells has scored 20 points just once over the last 10 games.

“That’s on me,” said Wade. “People have caught on to what we are trying to do with him. I have to find ways to get him started.”

The Cowboys hope that starts today as they continue their march to the postseason.