Southeastern holds off McNeese to advance to Southland Tip-Off title game

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Gus Okafor
KATY – MARCH 7: Southland Conference Basketball Tip-Off Tournament: Championship Round: McNeese State vs. Southeastern Louisiana from the Leonard E. Merrell Center in Katy on January 7, 2022 in Katy, Texas (Photo by Erik Williams/Southland Communications)

KATY, Texas – The Southeastern Louisiana University men’s basketball team had a 16-point second half lead before holding off a late rally in an 83-78 win over McNeese on Friday in the semifinals of the Southland Conference Tip-Off Event at the Merrell Center.

The Lions (6-9) were led by Ryan Burkhardt and Gus Okafor as each scored 20 points. Jalyn Hinton and Roscoe Eastmond both scored 10 points to aid the Lions in the win.

The Cowboys (5-10) got 18 points and nine rebounds from Kellon Taylor to lead the way. Zach Scott added 17 points while Myles Lewis had 15.

Southeastern came out scorching to start the game as they shot 62 percent in the first half on 18-for-29 from the field. The Lions also drilled 10 first half three-pointers, building a 52-40 halftime lead.

SLU appeared to be cruising in the second half as it held a 66-51 lead with 13:05 remaining. However, the Cowboys came roaring back as they went on a 17-1 run to take a 68-67 advantage with 7:59 remaining, their first lead since 10-8 in the first half.

McNeese held a 71-70 lead with 7:22 left but the Lions didn’t panic. SLU went on an 11-1 run over the next 3:48 to take an 81-72 advantage highlighted by a huge three-pointer from Burkhardt.

The Cowboys cut the Lions’ advantage to 81-78 with 27 seconds to go and had a chance to tie the game. However, Hinton came up with a huge blocked shot and Okafor knocked down two free throws to seal the win.

SLU finished the game 26-for-52 from the field for 50 percent and 13-for-23 (60 percent) from the three-point line. The Lions also had 19 assists and turned it over just 13 times while shooting 18-for-21 (85 percent) from the free throw line.

The Cowboys shot 51 percent for the game on 30-for-58 shooting but were just 5-for-14 from behind the three-point line.

With the win, the Lions advanced to the Southland Tip-Off Championship Game where they will face the winner of Friday’s game between Nicholls and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

Fans can follow the entire three-day event as all games will be broadcast on ESPN+. Links to video and live stats will be available at the Southeastern men’s basketball schedule page at LionSports.Net.

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