Defense, key scoring runs fuel McNeese past UIW, 72-56
LAKE CHARLES – McNeese used two big scoring runs, one in the first half and one the second, and a strong defense to pull away for a 72-56 Southland Conference win over Incarnate Word on Wednesday night and notching the team’s third straight win.
Coming off a player of the week performance last week, A.J. Lawson led the Cowboys (8-9, 3-3 SLC) with 19 points while Dru Kuxhausen dropped in 15 behind four three-pointers. Sha’markus Kennedy recorded his sixth double-double on the year with 12 points while tying a career-best with 16 rebounds.
UIW (4-12, 1-4) was led in scoring by Drew Lutz’s 15 points followed by Vincent Miszkiewicz’s 14.
McNeese started out on fire by opening up a 12-2 lead after connected on four of its first five shots – three of those being fast break three-pointers.
UIW battled back to cut the margin to 17-13 with 13:01 to play but then McNeese rolled off an 11-0 run that was helped by seven straight possession stops by the defense and taking a 28-13 lead after a couple of Myles Hutchinson free throws at the 8:13 mark.
The Cowboys’ offense then went stagnant as UIW closed out the final eight minutes on an 18-5 run as McNeese took a 33-31 lead into the half.
McNeese went back up by 10 early in the second half after Kuxhausen’s fourth three-pointer of the night to make it a 43-33 game with 17:32 to play and after UIW closed to within five points and maintained that spread for the next 10 minutes, the Cowboys got things going again on offense with a 13-0 run as Lawson took charge by scoring nine of those 13 points with the last two making it a 68-50 lead with 3:00 to play.
Lawson then capped the scoring with a jumper with five seconds left as he scored 12 of his 19 points in the second half.
The Cowboys had a hard time finding the bottom of the net in the first half despite getting some good looks. McNeese hit just 11 of 31 for 35.5 percent but made up for it in the second half by sinking 16 of 25 for 64 percent and finishing the game at 27 of 56.
UIW connected on 22 of 56 for 39 percent for the game and 5 of 21 from three-point range for 24 percent.
“I thought our defense did it for us tonight,” said head coach Heath Schroyer after the Cowboys won their third straight conference game for the first time since the 2016 season. “We had some open looks and good shots that we didn’t make but I thought the key tonight was our defense.”
McNeese forced UIW into seven kills, which Schroyer explained a kill is equal to the defense making three consecutive stops. Having seven can change a game.
“Anytime you can get seven kills, that makes a difference.”
The Cowboys will be back in action on Saturday when they visit New Orleans. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.
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