Lawson scores 35 as McNeese downs Southland unbeaten ACU, 88-84

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ABILENE, Texas – A.J. Lawson scored a career-high 35 points and Sha’markus Kennedy added 24 points with 10 rebounds as McNeese defeated Abilene Christian, 88-84 here Wednesday night to pick up its first Southland Conference win of the season.

In notching the victory, the Cowboys (6-9, 1-3 SLC) handed ACU (8-7, 3-1) its first league loss and just its second home loss of the season in eight games. It also snapped four-game losing streak in the series to the Wildcats and a nine-game road losing streak dating back to last season.

McNeese hit its final 12 free throws of the second half, including four straight in the final 10 seconds to keep ice the game, two by Leondre Washington with 8.2 seconds to play and the final two by Myles Hutchinson with 2.4 remaining to clinch the win. Hutchinson made his first career start in the game and scored six points, all from the free throw line, with two assists in 34 minutes of action.

The Cowboys had their best night of the season at the line, connecting on 26 of 29 freebies for 89.7 percent and was 12 of 13 in the second half.

Dru Kuxhausen added nine points while Hutchinson and Roydell Brown added six points each and Washington, Jeremy Harrell, Trey Johnson and Truman Moore each scored two.

ACU was led in scoring by Joe Pleasant’s 19 points and Payten Ricks who added 18.

McNeese scored the first five points of the game and ACU built a six-point advantage with just under five minutes to play, but neither team was able to extend its lead beyond that margin.

A 7-0 run by the Cowboys late in the half gave McNeese a 33-32 lead and the two teams followed by trading the lead the rest of the way with ACU taking a 44-43 lead into the half.

The second half was just as tight as the first 20 minutes until McNeese began to widen the gap with a 6-0 run following a couple of Lawson layups and a basket by Moore to make it a 62-55 lead with 12:22 to play.

The lead grew to nine points at 78-69 following a couple of Lawson free throws with 3:53 to play, then a dunk by Kennedy with 3:15 to play gave the Cowboys an 80-71 advantage.

ACU clawed back and cut the game to two after a three-pointer by Pleasant with 54 seconds remaining to make the score 84-82.

Then with 23 seconds to play, it appeared the Cowboys got a dunk by Kennedy to go up by four but it was ruled that he didn’t get the ball out of his hand before the shot clock expired.

ACU turned the ball right back over with 11 seconds to play as it attempted to tie the game and Washington was fouled on the ensuing possession, making both free throws to give McNeese an 86-82 advantage with 8.2 seconds remaining.

The Wildcats got a quick basket by Coryon Mason with 3.3 to play to cut the game to two points, but McNeese was able to get the ball into play to Hutchinson who was fouled and sank both free throws to seal the win.

McNeese shot an incredible 63 percent for the game (29 of 46) and was lights out in the second half, hitting 15 of 21 shots for 71.4 percent. The Cowboys also hit 4 of 12 from behind the arc for 33.3 percent while Kuxhausen, the nation’s No. 1 3-point shooter in made threes and threes per game, connected on 2 of 5 from long range. ACU hit 29 of 63 for 46 percent and was 6 of 21 from three-point range for 29 percent.

The Cowboys will return home on Saturday when they host Northwestern State in the second half of a double-header that begins with a 1 o’clock women’s game.

• Sha’markus Kennedy added a game-high six blocks in his stat line tonight.
• After missing the first shot of the second half, McNeese connected on its next eight from the field.
• Junior guard Myles Hutchinson recorded his first career start on the night and played 34 minutes.
• Kennedy and Lawson combined to make 21 of 30 shots, 17 of 19 from the free throw line, and 17 rebounds.
• The 35 points scored by Lawson is the most by a Cowboy player this season and the third, 30-point game of the year. Lawson also had 30 points vs. Kansas City (Dec. 10) while Kuxhausen scored 32 vs. Paul Quinn (Dec. 18).
• Kennedy’s double-double is his fifth of the season and 12th in his two-year career at McNeese.

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