McNeese stunned by Loyola in new home arena opener

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LAKE CHARLES – McNeese opened up its new home for its men’s and women’s basketball programs on Friday night but it would be Loyola who celebrated the facility’s first victory as the Wolfpack stunned the Cowboys, 79-78, in front of 2,599 fans.

“I really want to thank all the fans,” said first-year head coach Heath Schroyer. “It’s really neat to be able to see what this place can really become.”

Five Cowboy players scored in double-digits, led by Kevin Hunt’s 19 points while James Harvey added 18 behind five three-point goals.

“We obviously didn’t play well,” said Schroyer. “The first half we were timid. I think a lot of our guys were shell-shocked in a way. I thought we came out in the second half after we made some adjustments, and made some shots.

“At the end of the day, we gave up 15 offensive rebounds and you shoot 30 percent from the three on your home court with 18 turnovers, you’re not going to win very many games. I give them (Loyola) a lot of credit. They zoned us for 40 minutes. They played some 1-3-1 and some 1-1-3 matchups. We have to be a lot better.

“This effort, this outcome is unacceptable,” said Schroyer. “Our fans deserve better. Our university deserves better. And this community deserves better. And we’re going to give them better. We’re going to build this program.”

McNeese (0-3) trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half before closing the final two minutes on a 6-2 run to go into the break trailing 36-29.

Led by a string of three 3-pointers by Harvey in a span of two minutes early in the second half, the Cowboys tied the score at 43-43 with 16:10 to play.

Hunt then brought the crowd to its feet after a steal and break-away dunk to put McNeese up 47-43 at the 15:50 mark.

The Cowboys were able to maintain a slim lead until the Wolfpack (5-2) got a 3-pointer from Cameron Dumas then a Myles Burns layup to put the visitors back on top at 60-59 with 9:39 to play.

A Malik Hines layup gave McNeese a 74-72 lead with 1:49 to play and then led 75-74 after a Jarren Greenwood free throw with 1:26 left. Burns ignited the Wolfpack with a lane driving dunk to put his team up 76-75 at the 1:11 mark, then Zach Wrightsil banked in a 3-pointer from 30 feet at the shot clock buzzer to give Loyola a 79-75 advantage with 11 seconds left.

Harvey responded with his fifth three-pointer of the night to make it a one-point game at 79-78 with four seconds left.

McNeese had its chance at the win after a Loyola missed free throw on the front end of a one-and-one, but the Cowboys turned the ball over when attempting to get the ball into the lane for the winning shot.

Hines (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Roydell Brown (10 points, 13 rebounds) each recorded double-doubles, the second for Brown on the season. Will Robinson added 10 points while Sha’Markus Kennedy blocked six shots and pulled down six rebounds in 11 minutes of action.

The Cowboys shot 44 percent for the game (28 of 63) and 46 percent in the second half (17 of 37).

“We had some point blank layups and shots within 2 to 3 feet of the basket, a wide open three in the corner by our best shooter, they just didn’t go in,” said Schroyer. “I thought we got the ball into the spots we wanted to get it a lot, we just weren’t able to capitalize.”

Wrightsil led the Wolfpack with 20 points while Burns chipped in for 16.

Things started out on a high note for the new look Cowboys, scoring the game’s first four points behind a Brown free throw and a three-pointer from James Harvey.

The Cowboys led 18-15 after a Brown jumper with 10:11 to play in the half but Loyola strung together a 19-5 run over the next 7:36 to build a 34-23 lead with 2:14 to play in the half.

McNeese closed out the final 2:14 on a 6-2 run to go into the break trailing 36-29.

The Cowboys will return to action on Tuesday night at 6:30 when they host the University of Mobile.

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