HUNTSVILLE- The McNeese Cowgirls got a late 3-point bucket from Dede Sheppard to edge the Sam Houston State Bearkats in a back-and-forth battle, 66-63, Wednesday night at Johnson Coliseum.
McNeese (9-11, 5-4 SLC) crossed the .500 threshold in Southland play as the Kats (4-15, 1-9 SLC) fell just short of their second conference win in three games.
Sam Houston and McNeese both committed 19 turnovers, but the Cowgirls scored 24 points off turnovers, and the Kats scored only 18. McNeese had a great night from the floor, going 45.1 percent from the field compared to Sam Houston’s 37.5 percent clip.
Jenniffer Oramas led the Bearkat offensive attack with 18 points, including the first eight Bearkat points on their first three offensive possessions. Rachel Harrell and Lydia Baxter both scored in the double figures as well with Baxter notching a double-double off a career-high 15 rebounds and 17 points.
Caitlin Davis led the Cowgirls with 21 points, going 4-for-4 from deep with five assists. Mercedes Rogers and Keara Hudnall both scored in double figures for the Cowgirls.
The Bearkats will face Abilene Christian in the first half of a doubleheader on Saturday at 3 p.m. in Johnson Coliseum. The game will be streamed live on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN THE FIRST HALF
Oramas was the early catalyst for the Kats hitting two threes and a floater on the Kats first three trips down the floor with the Kats taking the early advantage 8-2. The Cowgirls answered back in a big way going on a 16-2 run before Ashleigh Cooper converted a lay-in with a minute left.
Oramas ended the opening period the same way she started it, with a triple from the corner to cut the McNeese lead to 18-15 after the first quarter. McNeese scored 12 of their 18 points off of the Bearkats eight first quarter turnovers while the Kats couldn’t convert the three McNeese turnovers into points.
The Bearkats gained momentum in the second period outscoring the Cowgirls 8-0 just under five minutes to capture a 25-23 lead with 3:47 left before the halftime break. The Bearkats didn’t let up as they continued their dominance on defense not allowing a single Cowgirl bucket in the final three minutes of the quarter to take a 29-28 lead into the halftime locker room.
The Bearkats were stingy on defense, allowing the Cowgirls to shoot only a 35.5 percent clip from the floor compared to going 44.8 percent themselves, but committed 14 turnovers in which the Cowgirls turned into 17 points on the board.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN THE SECOND HALF
The Bearkats got hot once again in the third period, going on a 10-2 run to capture a 42-36 lead with just over three minutes to go in the period off of back-to-back trifectas from Rachel Harrell. The Cowgirls didn’t go down quietly as they fought back to take a 48-44 lead into the final period.
A Keara Hudnall triple to open the final period pushed the McNeese lead to 51-44, but the Kats fought back to pull within two off a Harrell jumper with just under seven minutes to go. Both teams continued to trade blows before Baxter converted a three-point play to bring the Kats to within one with 2:36 remaining.
After tying it up thanks to a Baxter free throw, the Bearkats locked in on defense allowing no points over the next two minutes as Akarian Morgan converted the go-ahead lay-up after a Lydia Baxter steal.
McNeese would go on to tie the game at 62 off a Davis lay-up with 30 seconds left, but Baxter answered with one of two at the line to give the Kats a 63-62 lead with 21 ticks remaining. But Sheppard answered back, canning the game-winning triple from straightaway on a feed from Davis with nine seconds left to go.
The Kats flipped the script in the second half as they forced 12 McNeese turnovers compared to committing only five of their own, but only managed 12 points off the turnovers. The Kats used their height to their advantage outscoring the Cowgirls in the paint 24-18.