HOUSTON – HBU overcame a nine-point halftime deficit to lead by 11 in the second half but the visiting McNeese Cowboys escaped with a 74-71 win over the Huskies inside Sharp Gym on Saturday evening.
Sophomore Zach Iyeyemi posted new career-highs of 17 points and three blocked shots for the Huskies (2-12, 1-5 SLC), connecting on 6-of-7 from the floor and a perfect 5-of-5 from the foul line. Iyeyemi also pulled down five rebounds and had a steal. Brycen Long, a freshman, set a new career-best in scoring for the second game in-a-row with 16 points to go with five assists. Long was 4-of-8 from long-range and 6-of-12 from the floor.
McNeese (7-8, 1-5 SLC) took an early 11-5 run but consecutive threes by the Huskies’ Hunter Janacek and Pedro Castro evened things up less than four minutes in. Later in the half, at the 9:14 mark, Darius Lee came up with a steal and his fast-break layup broke a nearly four-minute scoreless drought for both teams and made it a 20-17 ballgame in the Cowboys’ favor.
McNeese would like by nine with 4:24 left before HBU got back to within four but the Huskies headed into the locker at the half trailing 38-29.
The Huskies came out firing in the second half, scoring nine points before McNeese even attempted a shot. HBU forced three turnovers on the first three possessions by McNeese and made their first three shots along with a pair of free throws, tying the game just 1:29 into the second period.
Overall, HBU started the second half with a 24-4 run to lead 53-42 with 13:16 left on the clock. The next six points of the game went to McNeese freshman Za-Ontay Boothman extended the Huskies’ lead back to double-digits, 60-50, with a trey at the 8:28 mark.
Over the next four-plus minutes, however, the Cowboys went on a 16-4 run to take a two-point lead, 66-64, at the final media timeout. Iyeyemi scored the game’s next four points with two free throws and a hook shot, putting HBU ahead 68-66 with under three minutes to play.
In the final minute, with the Huskies trailing by two, a jump ball went to McNeese with 16 seconds remaining. Zach Scott knocked down both his free throws with seven seconds left to extend the McNeese lead to four but a quick three from Long, with just under four seconds left, got the Huskies within one. McNeese hit both their free throws again and a Janacek heave from halfcourt was off the mark to end the game.
Castro ended the night with 16 points, a career-high six assists, four rebounds, a pair of steals, and a blocked shot. The junior was 5-of-11 from the field and 4-of-6 from deep. As a team, HBU shot 45.8 percent (27-of-59) from the floor and 35.7 percent (10-of-28) from three. The Huskies also recorded seven blocked shots as a team, the third time this season they have had at least seven blocks in a game.
The Huskies will hit the road for their next four games beginning this coming Wednesday, Jan. 27, with a trip to San Antonio, Texas to face Incarnate Word at 7:00 p.m.