Missed FTs doom Cowboys

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NATCHITOCHES — Heath Schroyer gave the padding on the edge of the media table a beating.

The McNeese State head men’s basketball coach repeatedly slapped the table in frustration, and with good reason.

The Cowboys controlled the pace for most of the game against host Northwestern State on Saturday evening in Prather Coliseum, but poor free-throw shooting and turnovers allowed the Demons to come back and beat McNeese 66-61, denying the Cowboys a three-game win streak.

McNeese (5-11, 0-1 Southland Conference) struggled mightily from the line, shooting 13 of 25. That did not count possible second free throws of one-and-ones that the Cowboys never got to shoot because they missed the first one.

“I’m really proud of our effort,” Schroyer said. “The frustrating part as a coach, and as a program, when you go on the road, you’ve got to put yourselves in position to win games. When you go 13-for-31 including one-and-ones from the free-throw line, it’s hard to win on the road. We had our opportunities, but I give (NSU) a lot of credit.”

The first half seemed to be played at NSU’s pace. The Demons’ press forced McNeese into playing a slower than they like to, so as to not turn the ball over into the press. The result was seven first-half turnovers for the Cowboys.

Despite that, McNeese played well and led by as many as eight points midway through the first half. But once the Cowboys went up 15-7, NSU went on a 15-2 run and led by five. McNeese led 26-25 at halftime.

In the second half, McNeese opened a nine-point lead thanks to a 10-4 run. But, as was the theme for most of the game, the Cowboys could never extend the lead and put the Demons (6-9, 1-1) it out of reach.

“You figure that they will (come back),” Schroyer said. “They’re at home. They came off a home loss so they obviously were playing really well. They played extremely hard. I give them a lot of credit, I think they did a lot of really good things. But I think we hit ourselves in the foot a little bit by not capitalizing the opportunities that presented themselves for us.”

NSU slowly crept back in the game thanks to McNeese turnovers — of the forced and unforced variety — and missing free throws despite getting into the bonus early. The Demons tied the score at 52 thanks to two Malik Metoyer free throws with 2:58 remaining. From there, NSU went on a 8-2 run and led McNeese 60-54, highlighted by a Jacob Guest 3.

The Cowboys clawed back to within two with 36 seconds remaining thanks to two free throws and a layup by Sha’markus Kennedy, who finished with 16 points, a team-high eight rebounds and two blocks.

That was as close as McNeese would get, as Brian White snuck free to break the Cowboys’ press and hit a layup over Jarren Greenwood. Then the Demons did what McNeese struggled to: make free throws, hitting their last four and using solid defense to seal the victory.

McNeese will host Abilene Christian on Wednesday in its SLC home opener.

“We had an opportunity to get a sweep,” Schroyer said of the opening two-game road trip in SLC play. “And that’s disappointing. Anytime you can split your road trips, when you look back, it’s probably a pretty good thing. I think we let one get away tonight, which is disheartening. But we’ve got another one coming Wednesday with a really good team coming up. We’re going to have to be ready to go.”

James Harvey led the Cowboys in scoring with 17 points on 4-of-8 3-point shooting. No other Cowboy hit a 3. Roydell Brown was the other Cowboy in double-figures scoring with 10 points and he also grabbed eight rebounds.

N’western St. 66 | Cowboys 61 

Wednesday | McNeese at Abilene Christian

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