Collum’s shot kicks off Cowboy madness

Published 11:34 am Tuesday, February 27, 2024

BEAUMONT, Texas – Let the madness begin.

Antavion Collum fired the first big salvo and it isn’t even March. 

Collum’s only basket Monday night was 13 years in the making for McNeese State.

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The senior center, who had missed his previous eight shots from the floor in Neches Arena, found nothing but net when it mattered most.

Collum’s three-point shot with 3.8 seconds remaining lifted the Cowboys to a 58-56 win over Lamar in a classic Battle of the Border slugfest. The win gave McNeese a share of its first Southland Conference title since 2011. 

The Cowboys will try for the outright crown Saturday at home against Nicholls.

“That is the first step but we don’t want to share anything,” said McNeese head coach Will Wade. “We are not finished yet.”

Collum’s big shot is the latest highlight in a season to remember for Cowboy fans, who traveled to Beaumont in droves to watch the showdown. 

“I knew it was in right away,” said Collum, who finished with just five points but the biggest three of the night. 

When Terry Anderson’s runner at the buzzer bounced off the backboard and rim for Lamar, the Cowboys had a portion of their first league regular-season championship in over a decade.

“It feels great,” said McNeese forward Christian Shumate. “I was getting emotional in the locker room after the game. After the last two years, to be part of this turnaround is something special.  

“I’m happy to be still here and go through this with these guys.”

Shumate was a part of the McNeese program the last two seasons when the Cowboys lost 45 times. Twenty-three of those came last year, setting the program record.

With Monday’s win, which was featured once again on ESPN’s SportsCenter, the Cowboys improved to 25-3, 14-1 in the Southland. They hold a three-game lead with three to play over both Nicholls and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. 

The victory was McNeese’s sixth straight and 20th in their last 21 games. 

The victory gave McNeese a double-bye into the conference tournament semifinals to be held next month in Lake Charles. But what the Cowboys really want is not to share the title with any other team but rather with their fans.

“We are not going to share it,” said Collum. “We want to win it ourselves. To do it at home would be great.”

For Wade, it is a simple case of earning the No. 1 seed, which gets the most rest if they advance in the tournament.

“It gives us the best opportunity to win the tournament,” said Wade. “It is a big advantage.”

It took a long time for McNeese to get going once again. After grabbing a 17-6 lead with 11:29 left in the first half, Shumate picked up his third foul and Shahada Wells got his second.  

Lamar then went on a 19-2 run and led 31-25 at the break. 

“That was our worst first half of the season,” said Collum. “They were scoring on our mistakes.”  

The Cowboys responded with a big run to start the second half, taking a 47-44 lead with 9:13 left behind Wells. He scored eight straight points, including back-to-back threes, to put McNeese back on top.  

Wells led all scorers with 23 points as he found his shooting touch. It was his first 20-plus game in his last eight.

“That is what we have been looking for him to do,” Wade said of Wells, who made the key pass out to Collum on the game-winning shot.

Chris Pryor and Adam Hamilton had 10 points each for the Cardinals, who fell to 15-13, 9-6. 

McNeese made it tough on itself by missing three of six free throws in the final 2:49, but it was Lamar’s Errol White who missed the front-end of the 1-and-1 with 14.2 seconds remaining that set up the game-winner.  

Shumate finished with just four points and five rebounds as he was limited to only 17:22 of playing time because of foul trouble. He finally exited when he was forced to foul White in the closing seconds.

Javohn Garcia was the only other Cowboy to score in double figures, finishing with 13. 

The rivalry battle had the feel of a tournament game with physical play, tough defense, and screaming fans leading the way on both sides. 

“This is something we can teach from,” said Wade. “We need this going into the tournament.”

As the Cowboys celebrated with their fans when the final buzzer sounded and Lamar players slumped to the floor you realize the madness has just begun.