Cowboys return home

Looking to end three-game losing streak

It’s been nine days since the McNeese State men’s basketball team played a game. But it’s been even longer than that — 20 days — since the Cowboys last played a home game.

When McNeese takes the floor tonight to take on visiting North Carolina Central (4-6), the Cowboys (2-6) are looking to break an even longer drought: it’s been almost two years and 13 games since they beat a nonconference Division I opponent (last time was a 70-63 win over Tulane on Dec. 19, 2016).

The Cowboys almost broke the streak when they played NCC on Dec. 1. McNeese led 64-57 with under 2 minutes left in the game, but the Eagles finished on a 10-2 run, scoring the winning free throws in the final 8 seconds, to squeak out a 67-66 victory.

It’s rare that teams play each other twice in a season in nonconference play. But, with the Southland Conference moving to a 20-game conference season, head coach Heath Schroyer said McNeese had to get creative to fill the nonconference slate with an extra home game. NCC helped out by agreeing to a home-and-home series this season.

It’s the third consecutive season the teams have played with NCC winning all three meetings, including a 74-66 victory in Lake Charles in 2016.

"I know that they’re really good," Schroyer said of NCC, which has won three of its last four games. "They’ve been to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments (and) three out five years. I think they’d be one of the top two or three teams in our league for sure. Their big kid (Raasean) Davis will be on an NBA Summer League this year; very very good player."

When the teams played the first time this season, Davis dominated, picking up a double-double with 21 points and 17 rebounds, adding three blocks. It was a game that saw the Cowboys outshoot NCC from the field, 3-point range, and outrebound the Eagles.

But McNeese struggled shooting free throws and committed more turnovers than NCC, two big factors that hurt the Cowboys at the end of the game.

Finishing games strong is something that Schroyer has preached to his team since getting back from their three-game road trip — all losses.

"The only way to learn how to win is to figure out how to win," Schroyer said. "You keep teaching all those lessons. Being able to make free throws under pressure. Being able to not turn it over under pressure. Being able to get a key offensive rebound or defensive rebound. It always comes down to a couple possessions when you play good teams, and we’ve played good teams.

"As a coach, in a brand-new program with a brand-new team, it’s a lot of teaching. It’s a lot of understanding the process and communicating the process to your team."

One thing Schroyer said he wants to get out of tonight’s game is to see how the Cowboys adjust to playing a team for the second time. He likened it to conference play, in which the Cowboys will play each team twice.

"To be able to play a team, figure out the adjustments, they’re obviously going to make adjustments," Schroyer said. "And come back and play them again, I thought it was a really good experience for our guys. Especially right before we get into league play here in a few weeks."

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