It's been an eventful month of August for the McNeese State men's basketball team.
The Cowboys started the month with a six-day trip to the Bahamas where they played three games against local professional teams. They rebounded from losing the first game to the Commonwealth Bank Giants to win the last two games.
On Tuesday, McNeese released its full 2019-20 regular-season schedule.
Among the most noticeable games on the schedule is the Southland Conference schedule moving from 18 to 20 games.
McNeese will open the season Nov. 6 at Western Michigan. The Cowboys will also travel to play Texas, Wisconsin and New Mexico. The home opener will be on Nov. 11 against NAIA Southern-New Orleans. The home schedule features one Division I nonconference game, Dec. 10 against Missouri-Kansas City.
McNeese head coach Heath Schroyer said there were multiple factors that contributed to the nonconference schedule being tougher on the road than at home. For instance, McNeese's Nov. 9 game against Louisiana-Lafayette is a return game in a home-and-home series that the Cowboys hosted last season. The UMKC game is also a return game because McNeese went to Kansas City in 2018.
McNeese was also hindered from making any home-and-home series this season or next because it agreed to play in a nonconference tournament in the 2020-21 season when it made the trip to the Bahamas.
"Obviously, putting a schedule together in college basketball is extremely difficult," Schroyer said, adding that the 20-game conference schedule also took away two potential nonconference opportunities. "And we're required to play to play so many road games and guarantee games out there. So that always makes it challenging, but I'm excited about it, because I think it's going to prepare us for league play."
Looking at the trip to the Bahamas, Schroyer said he was pleased, for the most part, with how his team played. He said he was especially pleased with how the team got better as the tournament went on. By the end of the last game, he said the team wasn't ready to go home and wanted to play another game to avenge the first loss.
"We didn't have any shootaround time or practice while we went over there," Schroyer said. "So we got there (for the first game), we had 20 minutes to warm up and play on the road. It was a great experience with a lot of adversity."
Two of the trip's standout players were junior guards A.J. Lawson and Dru Kuxhausen. Lawson — who sat out last season after transferring to McNeese from North Texas — worked primarily as a point guard, averaging 20.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and two steals in three games.
Lawson said he enjoyed getting on the court and playing other competition for the first time as a Cowboy. He said he also enjoyed playing with new teammates and bonding with them off the court.
"It was just great," Lawson said of the experience. "Some of the guys that are new, I didn't have the relationship that I would like to have with them. And that trip to the Bahamas basically made it stronger and I got to know (them) pretty well."
Kuxhausen, who's been lauded by Schroyer because of his ability to shoot the 3-pointer, lived up to expectations, averaging 15.7 points on 52.2 percent 3-point shooting and 83.3 percent free throw shooting for good measure.
Kuxhausen transferred to McNeese from Western Nebraska College, where he shot 50.9 percent from 3-point range in the 2018-19 season. He said he's adjusting to a new school and team, but said the trip definitely helped him gel with teammates.
"The Bahamas was good, I think just because we have such a young team, it was good for us all to get on the court together," Kuxhauen said. "Just play together and learn each other's strengths."