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