McNeese State rolls past Incarnate Word, 88-77


McNeese State center Sha’Markus Kennedy stands his ground for an offensive rebound and a put back in the second half, much to the delight of teammate Roydell Brown (22).

Guard Roydell Brown scored 23 points Wednesday night, leading the McNeese State Cowboys to an 88-77 road victory over Incarnate Word in the Southland Conference opener for both teams.

Four players reached double figures for the Cowboys, including center Sha’Markus Kennedy with 20. Guards James Harvey had 18 and Trey Touchet 13 to help hand UIW its fourth straight loss.

Freshman Dwight Murray Jr. started and led the Cardinals with a season-high 18 points. Charles Brown III had 14 and Augustine Ene and Morgan Taylor 13 apiece.

UIW forward Christian Peevy, playing with a cast on his broken left hand, finished with four.

Peevy was making his return to the lineup after sitting out the Cardinals’ last two games with the injury.

He apparently hurt the hand in the second half at LSU on Dec. 9.

Records

McNeese 5-9, 1-0
Incarnate Word 5-9, 0-1

Notable

The story of the game centered on McNeese State’s offensive execution that led to 66.7 percent shooting. Kennedy hit 8 of 9 from the floor and Brown 8 of 12.

Quotable

“You got to give McNeese credit,” first-year UIW coach Carson Cunningham said. “They came in here and shot it really well, asserted themselves physically.

“We have a lot of work to do. It wasn’t a good enough effort. I got to do a better job coaching. We’re just going to have to get back to work.”

Keeping the faith

Two positives stood out for UIW on an otherwise tough night.

For one thing, the Cardinals trailed by 25 in the second half and ended up making a spirited charge in the final few minutes.

Also, Peevy showed considerable courage in trying to play with his hand in a cast.

“He’s tough,” Murray said. “When he’s hurt in practice, he doesn’t stop playing. He never stops pushing. That’s what we love about him.”


UIW freshman Dwight Murray, Jr., gets a steal and races downcourt to hit a pull-up jumper in the first half.

Freshmen on the rise

If there is a silver lining in the team’s start this season, it’s that a series of performances from freshmen — Morgan Taylor, Antoine Smith Jr., and now Murray — continue to point to a brighter future.

Murray, from Austell, Georgia, enjoyed his best game with 6 of 12 shooting, including 3 of 7 from beyond the arc.

“Yeah, yeah, there’s definitely positives,” Cunningham said. “But the bottom line is, tonight, we didn’t do a good enough job, and I need to do a better job.”

Ailing with injuries

UIW played without Bryce Davis, Des Balentine, Romello Wilbert and Keaton Hervey against McNeese.

Davis, a 6-7 freshman from Glendale, Arizona, is the latest casualty. He wore a walking boot on his left foot. Davis has played in 13 games, averaging 2.8 points in 9.5 minutes.

Second-half recap

The Cowboys, with Touchet and Harvey connecting regularly from long distance, outscored the Cardinals 29-10 in a key 10-minute stretch early in the second half.

Harvey hit two three-pointers near the end of the streak, which boosted McNeese into a 72-47 lead with 11:25 remaining.

First half

The Cowboys scored 19 out of 21 points in a seven-minute barrage early in the game and then held on for a 41-33 halftime lead.

With McNeese shooting 65 percent in the half, Brown led the way with 16 points.

Murray scored seven to lead the Cardinals, who rallied with an 8-0 run in the last 1:47.

Ene sparked UIW’s last field goal (see video below) with a defensive strip under McNeese’s basket, which led to a fast break and a three-pointer by Murray.

Trailing 6-0 early, the Cowboys went on a 19-2 run with Brown scoring eight points during the streak.


On the final scoring play of the first half, UIW sophomore Augustine Ene strips the ball away from a McNeese State post player, dribbles out and finds Dwight Murray, Jr., for a three-pointer.

Peevy is on the court, warming up for Incarnate Word

Incarnate Word forward Christian Peevy is in uniform and warming up Wednesdday night as the Cardinals prepare to host the host the McNeese State Cowboys in the Southland Conference opener for both teams.

Incarnate Word beat Trinity 82-57 on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, at the UIW McDermott Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Christian Peevy leads Incarnate Word in scoring with 14 points per game.

Peevy, UIW’s leading scorer, has been out for two games with an injured hand. He is turning for the McNeese game with a cast on his left (non-shooting) hand. Peevy is averaging 14 points per game.

The game matches first-year coaches at both schools, Carson Cunningham for UIW (5-8) and Heath Schroyer for McNeese (4-9).

In its sixth year in the conference, UIW is looking for its first trip to the SLC tournament.

The Cardinals were ineligible in the first four years of membership as they completed a transition from NCAA Division II to Division I.

Last year, in their first year of elibility, they didn’t make it, finishing 7-21 overall and 2-16.

The Cowboys, from Lake Charles, Louisiana, haven’t been to the tournament since 2016.

Notable

UIW will be without Bryce Davis, Des Balentine, Romello Wilbert and Keaton Hervey against McNeese.

Davis, a 6-7 freshman, is in a walking boot on his left foot. He has played in all 13 games, averaging 2.8 points in 9.5 minutes.

Duke atop AP Top 25 poll; Texas Tech remains 11th


Fourth-ranked Virginia defeated Marshall 100-64 Monday night. Marshall, the Conference USA tournament champion last season, will open C-USA play Thursday night at Old Dominion.

AP Top 25
1. Duke 11-1 ACC
2. Michigan 13-0 Big Ten
3. Tennessee 11-1 SEC
4. Virginia 12-0 ACC
5. Kansas 11-1 Big 12
6. Nevada 13-0 Mountain West
7. Gonzaga 13-2 West Coast
8. Michigan State 11-2 Big Ten
9. Florida State 11-1 ACC
10. Virginia Tech 11-1 ACC
11. Texas Tech 11-1 Big 12
12. Auburn 11-2 SEC
13. Kentucky 10-2 SEC
14. Ohio State 12-1 Big Ten
15. North Carolina 9-3 ACC
16. Marquette 11-2 Big Eeast
17. Mississippi State 12-1 SEC
18. NC State 12-1 ACC
19. Houston 13-0 American
20. Buffalo 12-1 Mid-American
21. Indiana 11-2 Big Ten
22. Wisconsin 10-3 Big Ten
23. Oklahoma 11-1 Big 12
24. Nebraska 11-2 Big Ten
15. Iowa 11-2 Big Ten

Cunningham says UIW is ready for the SLC regular season

Northern Colorado beat UIW 90-64 on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018 at the UIW Convocation Center.

UIW’s Cody Graham (right) drives on Northern Colorado’s Johnatan Reyes.

Sophomore guard Cody Graham will play Wednesday night when the Incarnate Word Cardinals host the McNeese State Cowboys in a Southland Conference opener for both teams.

First-year UIW coach Carson Cunningham said Graham is a “full go” for the McNeese game after sitting out three straight with an injury.

The 5-10 sophomore from Fresno, Texas, played in UIW’s first 10 games and started nine of them before missing road losses at LSU, Illinois-Chicago and DePaul.

Incarnate Word coach Carson Cunningham gives directions to freshman guard Jordan Caruso in a 90-64 loss to Northern Colorado on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018.

Incarnate Word coach Carson Cunningham gives directions to freshman guard Jordan Caruso in a 90-64 loss to Northern Colorado on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018.

So, getting Graham back is a bonus for the Cardinals (5-8) as they continue preparations for SLC home games Wednesday against McNeese (4-9) and Saturday against the Nicholls State Colonels (7-6).

But as for the playing status of sophomore forward Christian Peevy, UIW’s leading scorer, Cunningham can’t say for sure.

“We’re going to find out,” Cunningham said after Monday’s workout. “We know he’s working hard to get better and as prepared as he can. We’ll know soon.”

Peevy enjoyed consecutive games of 26, 32, 23 and 16 points before sitting out UIW’s last two at Illinois-Chicago and DePaul.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding Peevy and a few others who didn’t do much in a New Year’s Eve workout, Cunningham said UIW is ready for the conference schedule to commence.

“We’re excited,” the coach said. “It’s a great time of year. We feel like we’ve had a difficult, challenging pre-conference slate, and it’s time to tip it up in conference.”

With several players not available, the Cardinals played well, all things considered, on the two-game trip to Chicago.

In a 63-57 loss at Illinois-Chicago, they clamped down defensively, holding the Flames to 18 points and 21 percent shooting in the second half.

Two nights later, in a 81-71 loss at DePaul, the Cardinals rained 14 three-point baskets on the Blue Demons.

Not bad for a banged-up SLC squad against a Big East opponent.

“I thought we did a lot of nice things,” Cunningham said. “I think we’re getting better. I’m hoping we can build off that as we start conference.”

At DePaul, UIW played well in the first half and trailed 42-38.

In the second half, the Cardinals continued to make shots. They were within eight with 11:36 remaining before the Blue Demons stepped on the gas and pumped the lead to 16.

Still, the home team couldn’t pull away, as UIW senior Charles Brown III and freshman teammate Antoine Smith both knocked down five three pointers.

“I thought we showed some real growth,” Cunningham said. “Guys were sharing the apple. We had good movement. We had some good flow. We’re just continuing to battle.”

Antoine Smith Jr. Northern Colorado beat UIW 90-64 on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018 at the UIW Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman Antoine Smith Jr. pulls down a rebound against Northern Colorado. Smith scored 15 points on five 3-pointers at DePaul on Dec. 19.

Alabama holds off SFA to win 79-69 in Nacogdoches

Senior guard Riley Norris knocked down a couple of three-point shots late in the game Sunday as the Alabama Crimson Tide escaped with a 79-69 victory over the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks in Nacogdoches.

Norris told the Alabama radio broadcast after the game that the raucous atmosphere at sold-out Johnson Coliseum forced the Crimson Tide to trust its preparation.

“It’s very similar to a Wichita State-type of environment,” Norris said. “Sold out. Fans are really into the game. When they go on a run you can’t really hear anything. So, you just got to trust each other on the court. Trust the coaches, and trust our preparation.”

Announced attendance was a capacity 7,203. Afterward, SFA coach Kyle Keller thanked the fans for their support of the program in its historic first home game against an opponent from the Southeastern Conference.

“FANTASTIC atmosphere in the #Sawmill!” Keller wrote in a Twitter post.

Turning point

The biggest sequence of the second half came with about five minutes remaining. SFA had the ball, trailing by three, and the crowd was into it.

But Karl Nicholas committed a turnover. On the other end, Norris drained a three to make it a six-point game. SFA, the defending champion in the Southland Conference, never got closer than five the rest of the way.

Individual leaders

Alabama — Kira Lewis, Jr., 17 points and 8 assists. Riley Norris, 14 points and 4 three-pointers, off the bench. Donta Hall, 12 points and 14 rebounds. Tevin Mack, 12 points.

SFA — Shannon Bogues, 21 points. Kevon Harris, 14 points. Bogues and Harris combined for five three-pointers. Off the bench, John Comeaux, 13 points, 4 rebounds and Karl Nicholas, 11 points and 8 rebounds.

Records

Alabama 9-3
Stephen F. Austin 7-5

UTSA rallies to turn back Southeastern Oklahoma, 70-67

Sophomore Jhivvan Jackson takes it to the basket against Southeastern Oklahoma State. The Puerto Rico native sparked UTSA to its third win in a row. — Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson poured in a career-high 32 points Saturday afternoon, but, surprisingly, the Roadrunners needed almost every one of them to avoid a second loss this season to a Division II program.

In the end, UTSA rallied in the final minutes to post a 70-67 victory over the Southeastern Oklahoma State Savage Storm.

It was the third win in a row for the Roadrunners, who are 6-2 in their last eight games.

“We all know that in the first half, basically in the whole game, we got whooped,” Jackson said. “They came out and played great on us. I mean, we prepared really great in practice. But it just didn’t translate in the game.”

Jackson finished with career bests in points and also rebounds, with 10, as UTSA played the last game before the Conference USA phase of the schedule commences next week.

The Roadrunners will host the UTEP Miners on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Records

UTSA 6-7
Southeastern Oklahoma 7-2


Forward Nick Allen forces an air ball by Southeastern Oklahoma’s Kellen Manek at the buzzer, allowing UTSA to escape with a three-point victory.

The visitors from Durant, Oklahoma, had the Roadrunners on their heels for much of the night, and they led by nine points with 6:42 remaining.

With 2:41 left, the Savage Storm held a 62-57 edge and was on the verge of joining Austin-based St. Edward’s University as Division II teams to win at the UTSA Convocation Center this year.

But in crunch time, the Roadrunners started to click, with Jackson and Keaton Wallace sparking an 11-2 run to take charge in a game they couldn’t afford to lose.

Trailing by the eventual final score, SOSU had the ball on the side with five seconds left, but UTSA stepped up to make a key defensive play, forcing an air ball.

Replay showed that the Storm tried to throw it down to the corner, but Wallace had that angle covered, prompting a pass to Kellen Manek on the left-wing arc.

That’s where UTSA forward Nick Allen showed up to force the miss. Jackson secured the rebound with one hand to end the game.


Guard DJ Henderson curves around around a screen early in the second half to knock down an easy three-point shot for the Savage Storm.

SOSU hit five 3-pointers in the first half and cruised to a 35-34 lead at intermission. For the game, the Savage Storm knocked down nine treys, including three by guard Jett Jobe and two by Manek.

As it turned out, UTSA made just enough plays to win, holding the visitors to 40.6 percent shooting from the field.

Notable

UTSA showed up on Saturday night rated 177th out of 353 Division I programs in the nation on Ken Pomeroy’s computer. The Roadrunners are 3-6 against teams in Division I and 3-1 against sub-D-I.

Three of their D-I losses have come against teams rated in Pomeroy’s top 70, including Oklahoma (26), Arkansas (58) and South Dakota State (69).

With the win over SOSU, the Roadrunners improved to 2-7 after trailing at the half this season. In two plus seasons under Coach Steve Henson, they are 8-33 in those situations.

Winning with defense

During the 6-2 streak, UTSA hasn’t allowed an opponent to shoot better than 42.4 percent. Here’s the breakdown:

Southeastern Oklahoma State, 40.6 percent, W 70-67
@Texas A&M Corpus Christi, 28.8, W, 64-50
Bethany, Kansas, 42.4, W, 101-77
@Arkansas, 41.8, L, 67-79
Mid-America Christian, 40.3, W, 104-74
Texas State, 40.6, L, 68-69
Houston Baptist, 41.8, W, 86-82
@Florida Gulf Coast, 39.3, W, 76-65

C-USA openers

North Texas won on the road at Rice Saturday afternoon, claiming a 103-87 victory, in the C-USA opener for both teams. Also, Louisiana Tech won at home, downing Southern Miss, 71-56.

UTSA forward Nick Allen looks to score on Southeastern Oklahoma State’s Kevin Buckingham. Allen finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Photo gallery: UTSA vs. SE Oklahoma State

UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson recorded 32 points and 10 rebounds to carry the Roadrunners to a 70-67 non-conference victory over Southeastern Oklahoma State on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson recorded 32 points and 10 rebounds to carry the Roadrunners.

UTSA beat Southeastern Oklahoma State 70-67 on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center.

Texas Tech routs UTRGV, 71-46, in tuneup for Big 12 opener

The 11th-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders held UT Rio Grande Valley to two field goals in the first eight minutes of the second half Friday night, using the defensive stand to break open a close game en route to a 71-46 victory in Lubbock.

Regarded as one of the best defensive teams in the nation, Tech limited the Broncs to 32.7 percent shooting from the field.

As a result, the Red Raiders (11-1) bounced back from their only loss of the season to Duke. Tech will open Big 12 conference play next Wednesday on the road at West Virginia.

Records

Texas Tech 11-1
UT Rio Grande Valley 8-7

Individuals

Texas Tech — Jarrett Culver, 19 points; Deshawn Coprew, 13 points, 10 rebounds

UT Rio Grande Valley — Terry Winn, 17 points.

Texas State’s Kaspar encouraged by effort at Arkansas

Playing on the road in a traditionally hostile setting, the upstart Texas State Bobcats opened with a 19-6 burst Saturday afternoon against a higher-profile opponent that didn’t seem all that interested in competing.

Texas State coach Danny Kaspar. His Bobcats beat UTSA 69-68 at the UTSA Convocation Center on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. - photo by Joe Alexander

Texas State coach Danny Kaspar. – Photo by Joe Alexander

But then the Arkansas Razorbacks woke up and found a rhythm, answering with a 17-0 run over a four-minute stretch that spelled the difference in a 73-70 victory, putting an end to the Bobcats’ eight-game winning streak.

“We started off strong, and Arkansas picked it up,” Texas State coach Danny Kaspar told reporters. “They counter-punched us and knocked us down, and we were a little slow to get up. I guess it went from 19-6 (in favor of Texas State) to 21-19, something like that.

“Other than that stretch right there, I thought we played pretty good.”

Kaspar’s comments were posted in a video published online at wholehogsports.com.

After a Christmas break, Texas State will continue its non-conference slate on Dec. 29 at home against Howard Payne. It’s the final test for the Bobcats before they open play in the Sun Belt on Jan. 3 at home against Georgia Southern.

Based on what has happened in the first few months of the season, the Bobcats should feel pretty good about their chances in conference.

In Nijal Pearson, Tre Nottingham, Jaylen Shead, Alex Peacock and Eric Terry, they’ve got a leadership nucleus that has played well together for most of the season.

Kaspar lamented 13 of 41 shooting combined by Pearson, Nottingham and Peacock.

“We got to have our main people shoot better than that,” Kaspar said. “But, I thought our defense was reasonably good, against a team in a pretty hostile environment, like this place is.”

Texas State also outrebounded Arkansas, 42-34, grabbing 17 offensive boards along the way.

“You know, we didn’t really have an answer for (Daniel) Gafford,” Kaspar said. “I’m not sure a lot of people are going to have an answer for him. He’s a good player.

“But then I thought Mason Jones was the one player that made a difference in the game today. He really had a good game. He was very efficient against us. He hurt us even more than Gafford.

“But we’ll take from this and learn from it and try to do better.”

Kaspar seemed particularly pleased with the rebounding statistics, particularly the 17 offensive rebounds.

“Shows me we were battling pretty good,” he said.

Notable

Texas State is 10-2 to lead all teams in the Sun Belt in non-conference victories.

Pearson ranks in the top ten in the conference in three major statistical categories, including scoring (19.6, sixth), field goal percentage (48.9, eighth) and three-point percentage (49.4, first).

Shead, the team’s starting point guard, is tied for second in assists (4.9) and leads in assist-turnover ratio (2.7-1).

Former Brennan standout leading the nation in rebounding

Center Jordan Murphy, a University of Minnesota senior from Brennan High School, is coming on strong for the Golden Gophers from the Big Ten conference.

Murphy leads the Gophers with 16.2 points per game and leads all of Division I, averaging 12.9 rebounds.

The 6-foot-7 Murphy enjoyed another double-double performance Friday night (30 points, 16 rebounds) in a home victory over North Carolina A&T.

Minnesota is 10-2 on the season and 1-1 in the Big Ten.