Cowgirls playing well at right time

All during the second half of the regular season, the Cowgirls proclaimed that they were the team to beat when it came to the Southland Conference basketball tournament.

Despite a 13-14 record and fourth-place finish in the league, the words were always the same, the belief always strong.

“I like that,” said first-year McNeese State head coach Lynn Kennedy. “You want them to think that way. You want them to be confident.”

The Cowgirls get a chance to prove themselves right this morning in Katy, Texas. After earning a first-round bye, McNeese opens tourney play against fifth-seeded Incarnate Word at 11 a.m.

“This is when you want to be playing your best basketball and I think we are doing that,” said Kennedy, whose team has won four of its last five games.

The Cardinals (10-16) go into the game riding the momentum of a 74-73 victory over Nicholls State in which they scored six points in the final 13 seconds in Thursday’s opening round.

The conference’s leading scorer, Jaaucklyn Moore, finished with 29 points including two 3s to the finish the game. The last coming on a buzzer-beater for the win.

The winner of today’s game will play regular-season champion Houston Baptist (16-9) on Saturday in the semifinals.

“I like where we are and I think we can be at any time,”

Kennedy said. “We know it is about us. If we do what we are supposed to do we can beat anybody else.”

That would include UIW, which lost both regular-season meetings. McNeese won 67-57 on Jan. 22 in San Antonio and 73-65 Feb. 26 in Lake Charles. The second game was for the first-round bye.

Moore had 31 points in the two games against McNeese.

The Cowgirls were led by third-team all-SLC pick Desirae Hansen who had 15 points the last time the teams played. McNeese also has SLC Freshman of the Year Kaili Chamberlin who scored 22 in the two games.

“In tournament play you are either ready to play or you are not,” Kennedy said. “You have to believe you can beat anybody and know they can beat you. You have to be focused on the game in front of you.

“What we have to do is take care of the basketball and rebound.”