Cowgirls lose third straight

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NATCHITOCHES — Despite a valiant fourth-quarter rally, trailing by as many as 23 points wound up being too much for the McNeese State women’s basketball team as host Northwestern State send the Cowgirls to their third consecutive loss, 82-63 on Saturday at Prather Coliseum.

While the Cowgirls played NSU to a dead heat in the second half (38-38), the first 24 minutes were just too much for McNeese (2-11, 0-2 SLC) to overcome.

The first half was a struggle on both ends for the Cowgirls. Meanwhile, Nautica Grant came off the bench to score 22 first-half points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and 5-of-7 3-point shooting to help the Demons snap a four-game losing streak against the Cowgirls. The highlight of the first half for Grant was a four-point play when she hit a 3 from the right corner while being hit.

While NSU (6-7, 1-1) shot the ball well, McNeese couldn’t get anything going, committing 16 first-half turnovers and shooting 9 of- 30 from the field and 1 of 11 from 3-point range. They were also hurt by foul trouble as four starters combined for 10 first-half fouls. NSU led 44-25 at halftime.

“We went to our (2-3) zone and she got some open looks out of that,” McNeese head coach Kacie Cryer said of Grant, who finished with a career-high 34 points. Her previous career high also came against McNeese, when she scored 27 on Dec. 30, 2017. “And she nailed them. She likes playing against us. You’ve got to credit her, but I think she was the only one that really got high numbers. She stepped up for them and she made shots when she needed to.”

McNeese opened the second half with an 8-2 run to cut the Demons’ lead to 46-33. But NSU was able to extend its lead to as many as 22 points late in the third quarter.

Despite the big lead, it was clear there was a much different demeanor about the Cowgirls in the third quarter and for most of the second half.

“We played with a little more emotion,” Cryer said of the difference between the halves. “We played with a little more fight. We played with a little bit more toughness. If we would have played that way in the first half, then we’re not down (19) at half. And I challenged them pretty tough at halftime.

“I’ll give them this: they responded and we came back and really had them on their heels. I can’t ask for anything else from them.”

The Cowgirls locked down defensively in the fourth quarter, not allowing a field goal until a Kira Bonner jumper with 31 seconds left in the game. Prior to that, NSU had missed its first seven shots of the quarter.

Unfortunately for McNeese, the offense continued to struggle. The Cowgirls shot 32.8 percent (20 of 61) and 14.3 percent from 3-point range (3 of 21) for the game. That, combined with more foul trouble, allowed the Demons to extend a nine-point lead to almost 20 despite having trouble hitting a shot.

Three Cowgirls scored in double figures, led by Damilola Balogun with 16 points. Callie Maddox and Regan Bolton scored 15 and 11 points, respectively, and Bolton hit all three of McNeese’s 3-pointers.

Up next for the Cowgirls is a game Wednesday at Abilene Christian.

“I just told them that they need to fight that way that I challenged them at halftime (for) the whole game,” Cryer said of her message to the team after the game. “We’ve got to quit making excuses that we’re young or any of this. We have to start making things happen.”

N’western St. 82 | Cowgirls 63 

Wednesday | McNeese at Abilene Christian

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