Cowboys struggle against in-state rivals

On a night that could be argued as the biggest night in the short life of the Health and Human Performance Complex, McNeese was good at times.

But not good enough.

The Cowboys once again struggled with turnovers and a lack of three-point shooting among other things as in-state rival Louisiana-Lafayette came to Lake Charles and left McNeese with a 80-67 setback.

Three Ragin’ Cajun players scored in double-figures, but Malik Marquetti was the player that gave McNeese the biggest headache. He scored 29 points on 7-of-11 three-point shooting. The Cowboys as a whole only shot 3-of-12 from behind the arc.

“They did a really good job of overloading our zone and knowing down shots that way,” McNeese head coach Heath Schroyer said of ULL’s offense. “A couple of those shots (Sha’markus Kennedy) contested, but (Marquetti) is a good player. They made nine threes and we made three, which is another issue as well. They’re really good. They put (Marquetti) in space and he did a good job of executing.”

McNeese also committed a season-high 23 turnovers. It’s the second-straight game that the

Cowboys have turned the ball over more than 20 times. ULL scored 27 points off of those turnovers. Some turnovers were forced because ULL’s press, while some were unforced on McNeese’s behalf. Meanwhile, McNeese only scored six points off of 11 Cajuns’ turnovers.

“There’s no drill to stop the turnovers the way they’re happening at times,” Schroyer said.

Early in the game, McNeese (3-8) managed to keep the game close. The Cowboys had a short-lived lead at 8-5. From there, ULL controlled the game but McNeese managed to keep the game close.

With under five minutes to go in the first half, McNeese managed to go on a run and cut the Cajuns’ lead down to one at 29-28. From there, ULL (8-4) dominated to finish the half, outscoring the Cowboys 13-5 to take a 42-33 lead into halftime

One of McNeese’s biggest first-half problems was turnovers. The Cowboys coughed the ball up 14 times and ULL made them pay, scoring 16 points off of those turnovers. In contrast, ULL only turned the ball over six times and McNeese only scored two points from them.

Another big difference was the three-point shooting of ULL’s Malik Marquetti, who led the Cajuns in the first half with 16 points on 4-of-6 from three-point range. The rest of ULL only shot 1-of-13 from three in the first half.

In the second half, McNeese managed to hang around for awhile, cutting the Cajuns’ lead down to five a couple of times. But eventually, the Cowboys’ carelessness with the ball combined with ULL regaining its rhythm from three-point range proved to be McNeese’s undoing.

Another big issue for McNeese was letting ULL go to work on the offensive glass. Although the Cowboys finished with more rebounds than ULL (47-32) and offensive rebounds (19-17), the Cajuns 20 second-chance points hurt McNeese at inopportune times.

“We work on rebounding every day,” Schroyer said. “We obviously have to figure out the right way to work on it because it’s not translating.”

Malik Hines was one of three Cowboys to score 14 points in the game. Hines also grabbed 13 rebounds to record the double-double. Roydell Brown almost had another double, getting 14 points and nine rebounds, but he also committed seven turnovers.

Hines knows that teams will focus on denying the Cowboys much access to the paint, forcing them to shoot from the perimeter. He says it’s just about focusing as Southland Conference play looms.

“That’s part of the game,” Hines said of the attention that he and other interior players will receive. “People watch you, they scout. They develop strategies to go against what you do. We work every day. At this point with our team, it’s just the will. How bad do we want it.”””

McNeese’s Malik Hines puts up the shot over Louisiana Lafayette’s Justin Miller during a non-conference game at the McNeese H&HP Complex in Lake Charles, La., Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)

Rick Hickman

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