Southeastern rallies for OT win over McNeese to clinch bye in SLC Tournament

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HAMMOND, La. – The Southeastern Louisiana University men’s basketball team rallied back from a 12-point halftime deficit to force overtime and took home its fourth win in five games that have needed an extra five minutes this season, knocking off the McNeese State Cowboys 78-75 Saturday afternoon at the University Center.

The Lions clinched a top-four seed and a bye to the quarterfinals of the Jersey Mike’s 2023 Southland Conference Basketball Championships presented by Louisiana Travel.

Southeastern jumped out immediately as Roscoe Eastmond found Roger McFarlane alone under the basket for a layup and an early 2-0 lead on the game’s opening possession. The two teams traded buckets back and forth until a jumper by Eastmond put SLU up 8-6 with 16:20 left before halftime.

McNeese went on to score nine of the next 11 points to open an advantage for the first time at 15-10 with less than 13 minutes left in the opening period. After the two teams traded buckets, a floater by Boogie Anderson was the first two of five straight Lions points to tie the score again as a pair of Nick Caldwell free throws evened things up at 17-17 with seven minutes to go before halftime. The Cowboys controlled those final seven minutes, however, as McNeese scored the next 11 points as part of a half-ending 17-5 run to take a 34-22 lead into the break.

The Cowboys took the largest lead of the game for either team shortly out of the break as a pair of free throws made it 36-22 McNeese after the first possession of the second half. Southeastern answered by scoring the next six points to cut it down to eight as a jumper by Anderson made it 36-28 Cowboys. Over the next few minutes, a trend started of SLU cutting the deficit down some and McNeese answering with a run to get it back into double figures. With less than 16 minutes left, an Alec Woodard transition layup cut the deficit to seven points at 43-36, but the Cowboys responded with back-to-back threes to up the deficit to 13 points, 49-36, with less than 15 minutes left.

But the momentum seemed to turn with just less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation and SLU trailing 58-47 as McFarlane hit a three to get things going. After a miss on McNeese’s end, Anderson hit a jumper as a flop violation technical foul was called against the Cowboys. Woodard hit the ensuing technical free throw to cut the deficit to five. After a Cowboy turnover, Nick Caldwell connected on an extended hook shot to make it an 8-0 Lions run and just a three-point game at 58-55 with 8:30 remaining.

However, McNeese continued to keep SLU at arm’s length over the next few minutes, pushing the lead back up to six points with five minutes left following a three-pointer, making it 69-63. From there, the Southeastern defense locked down the McNeese offense, not allowing the Cowboys to score another point in regulation while buckets by Anderson and McFarlane and free throws by Anderson and Brody Rowbury tied the score at 69-69 with less than a minute left. Both teams had looks to take the win in regulation but missed and the game was forced into the extra period.

The Cowboys scored on its opening possession to take the early lead in overtime, but Eastmond hit a layup and a three to give Southeastern the lead at 74-71 with less than four minutes left, SLU’s first lead since 8-6. McNeese scored the next four to reclaim the lead but Caldwell answered right back with the hook shot from the free throw line again with a minute left to give the Lions the lead for good as McNeese was held scoreless over the final 1:15 of the game and a pair of Eastmond free throws helped seal the win.

“I thought we came out sloppy in the first half and didn’t play our style of basketball,” said SLU head men’s basketball coach David Kiefer. “However, in the second half, our offense flowed better, the ball didn’t stick and we converted on good looks. I credit the guys resolve and fortitude in fighting back and getting this win. This is a key win for us because we locked up the first-round bye in the conference tournament. No team has won the tournament without at least one bye, so securing this is certainly big for us.”

Anderson tied two season and career highs in leading the Lions to the win. He finished with 24 points, tying the mark he set last Saturday in the overtime, buzzer-beating win over Texas A&M-Commerce while his seven rebounds tied his best mark from the game at Northwestern State. He also had two assists while shooting 10 of 18 from the field. Caldwell came off the bench to score 14 points to go with seven rebounds. Two of McFarlane’s five made shots came from deep as he finished with 12 points, six rebounds, and three assists. Eastmond wrapped up the leading scorers for the Lions with 11 points, three rebounds, and three assists.

After shooting just 25.8% in the first half, Southeastern hit on 55% of their shots in both the second half and overtime to help overcome the 14-point deficit and ended up hitting for a better percentage overall in the game, 42.3% to 40.9%. While McNeese was hitting from the outside, the Cowboys hit nine three-pointers compared to four for SLU, Southeastern did work in the painted area, outscoring McNeese 48-26 in the lane and 22-11 in second chance points.

Now confirmed to be a top-four seed in the Jersey Mike’s 2023 Southland Conference Basketball Championships presented by Louisiana Travel, the Lions (17-13, 11-6 SLC) look to lock down the three-seed in the regular season finale on Wednesday night in Houston against Houston Christian. Tip-off of Wednesday’s contest against the Huskies (10-20, 7-10 SLC) is set for 7:00 p.m. in Sharp Gymnasium.

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