Greedy Cowboys look to share title with fans

Published 12:22 pm Friday, March 1, 2024

It seems only fitting that the Cowboys can claim their first Southland Conference championship in 13 years on their home floor.

Their fans have earned the chance to share in the fun.

Now it’s up to the Cowboys to reward them in person.

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McNeese State can win its first regular season title outright since 2011 with a victory over Nicholls in front of an expected sold out Legacy Center Saturday.

The Cowboys, 25-3 overall and 14-1 in the league, have a magic number of one to wrap up the race. They take a six-game win streak into the contest and have won 20 of their last 21.

Oh yes, and let’s not forget, McNeese is a perfect 14-0 on Joe Dumars Court, as well.

Nicholls (16-12, 11-4) is fighting to finish second and looking to claim the other double-bye in the upcoming SLC postseason tournament, which will also be held in the Legacy Center.

Tipoff is set for 4 p.m.

“We still have to finish this off,” said McNeese head coach Will Wade. “It would be nice to win it at home.”

The Cowboys themselves don’t want to share any portion of the title.

“We want it all to ourselves,” said center Antavion Collum. “We don’t like to share.”

Except with their own fans.

“We want to make sure we win on our home court,” said guard Shahada Wells. “Our fans have been great, they have had our backs all year and say how much they appreciate us.

“We would like to show them we appreciate what they do for us and what they mean to us by winning it in front of them. We want to share it with them.”

Today’s meeting will be the second in 14 days between the two teams. McNeese won the first contest in Thibodeaux 74-47 behind a suffocating defense, holding the Colonels to their lowest point total of the season.

Neither team has lost a game since.

Forward Christian Shumate led the way for McNeese against the Colonels with 12 points and 12 rebounds. He was one of six Cowboys to score at least nine points in the balanced attack.

It was one of Shumate’s 31 career double-doubles he has produced, one short of the program record.

The Cowboys had six players with nine points or more points and shot 64 percent in the second half and finished at 53 percent for the game.

McNeese’s defense forced Nicholls into a season-high 21 turnovers and scored 23 off those takeaways. The Cowboys also had 32 points in the paint as they muscled past Nicholls as well.

“I think it will be a much closer game this time,” said Wade. “We did some things different on defense that surprised them. They will be ready for us.”

The Colonels are second in the conference in three-point shooting, connecting on 36.4 percent, just behind the Cowboys who are at 38.2. However, Nicholls was held to just 6 for 24 from long range and only 31 percent shooting overall during the game in Thibodaux.

“We gave them some good looks last time they just missed shots,” said Wade. “I think they will shoot better this time. We will have to make sure we guard their shooters and not let them get going.”

McNeese leads the conference in defense and is fourth in the nation, allowing just 61 points a game. The Cowboys also continue to lead the country in margin of victory at 18.8 despite their close call at Lamar.

Well leads McNeese in scoring and is second in the Southland at 17.1 while Shumate tops the conference in rebounding at 9.5. Diante Smith (14.9), Jamal West (14.2) and Rob Brown (13.5) are all in the top 12 in the SLC scoring race.

Smith and Brown had 13 and 10 respectively in the first game.

McNeese will enter the weekend ranked No. 1 in a pair of mid-major polls, topping both the Small College and Cinderella Top 25.

Yet all they want from Saturday’s game is to share their Southland title with their fans, and only their fans.