McNeese State University used a 19-4 run midway through the game to take down Oral Roberts University, 76-71, on Thursday night at Burton Coliseum. Kevi Luper led ORU with 24 points in the loss.
The setback drops ORU to 14-12, 11-5 in Southland Conference play, and out of the top spot in the SLC standings. The Golden Eagles now trail both Sam Houston State and Lamar for the top spot in the league; both the Bearkats and Lady Cardinals were victorious on Thursday night and improved to 11-4 in conference action.
Luper was 10-for-20 from the floor and added nine rebounds along with a career-high four blocked shots. Sarah Shelton added 17 points and 10 boards, while Taylor Cooper collected 14 points.
The hub of the wheel was once again Jaci Bigham, who dished 11 assists on the night.
McNeese (15-11, 10-5 SLC) was led by Ashlyn Baggett, who hit 5-of-9 three-point attempts and scored 26 points. Sister Caitlyn Baggett added 17 points.
As a team, McNeese was 8-for-21 from three-point range for the game.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair that featured two ties and 15 lead changes. The Golden Eagles took a five-point lead at the 3:19 mark, when Luper canned a three-pointer to make the score 29-24.
But McNeese followed with nine straight points to take their biggest lead, 33-29, on an Ashlyn Baggett three-pointer. Bigham scored right at the end of the half to make the score 33-31.
Luper led all scorers with 12 points at the break, while Ashlyn Baggett led the Cowgirls with 11.
McNeese State came out of the halftime locker room on fire, spelling doom for the Golden Eagles. The Cowgirls scored the first six points of the half, capped by the lone Arianna James bucket of the night, to build a 39-31 lead with 18:20 left.
The lead hit double-figures for McNeese moments later, when two Ashlyn Baggett free throws gave the home side their biggest bulge, at 43:33, with 16:04 left.
ORU would do a fine job of rallying, but could never get over the hump and reclaim the lead. The closest Misti Cussen's team would get came with 9:36 left, when Cooper supplied a spot-up jumper to cut the gap to 54-53.
Cooper again cut the deficit to a single point at the 5:52 mark on a long-range three-pointer, making the score 62-61. But the Cowgirls put the game away by scoring the next seven points, boosting their advantage to 69-61 at the 3:59 mark.
ORU would never again trail by less than three points, and they fell by five.
Helping McNeese greatly was their ability to take care of the basketball. The Cowgirls turned the ball over just five times and force ORU into 15 giveaways.
The Golden Eagles continue their road swing and look to retake the Southland lead on Saturday, March 2 when they face Lamar. Game time in Beaumont, Texas is scheduled for 4 pm CT.