Basketball teams head home, hurricane repairs complete

After hearing all the talk and having the chance to practice in their own gym, the McNeese State players will play a game at home.

The reopening of the Legacy Center will take place on Saturday. The more than $40 million on-campus facility, which opened in 2018 as the Health and Human Performance Complex, was severely damaged by Hurricanes Laura and Delta in 2020.

More importantly, it’s game day. The Southland Conference opener plays for both men’s and women’s teams. In a brief 14-game league campaign, that means even more.

“It’s important to us as coaches that our kids understand the importance of the game,” McNeese men’s coach John Aiken said. “It’s going to be emotional, but we can’t get carried away with it all. You have to be ready to play. »

The Cowboys are not alone in this situation. While their game is set for a 4 p.m. tip, the Cowgirls will open at 1 p.m.

Both teams will be warned against the Houston Baptist Clubs and know that winning at home is a must if you want to make some noise in the SLC.

“We’re happy to be home, but we have to take care of it,” said women’s head coach Lynn Kennedy. “We have to understand that this is about the basketball game and not everything else.”

Both teams are coming off easy tune-up wins over non-Division I NCAA teams that played this week at the Ralph O. Ward Recreation Complex.

The Cowgirls stomped Ecclesia College 108-39 on Sunday while the Cowboys beat Arlington Baptist 120-44 on Wednesday.

“It was good for us to gain confidence and get ready for the start of the league,” Cowboys swingman Kellon Taylor said. “We really shared the ball and played a good team game. We’ll have to do that on Saturday.

With so much turnover over the past two seasons, few players have played a game at Legacy Center. The only member of the men’s team on the 2020 roster is Collin Warren who sat out this season.

Divine Tanks is the Cowgirl who spends the most time on the field during matches inside the campus arena.

But none of that matters without the win.

“The most important thing is to win the basketball game,” Aiken said. “A lot will happen, but Houston Baptist is going to come here and try to make it his day.

“This place also puts a target on our backs and everyone in the league will play better here too.”

This is because the arena will be the future home of the SLC’s post-season tournaments after this season.

“You want to establish that as a home advantage right away,” Kennedy said. “Besides, you want to put on a good show. We want to make it exciting so people want to come back and watch again.

The Cowgirls (5-8) will be looking to use their quick style and 3-point shooting to set the tone against HBU (4-7).

Last week’s Southland Women’s Tip-Off event was canceled due to COVID-19, so there was no preview of the league run.

With a balanced offense — only Desirae Hansen scoring in double figures at 10.2 ppg — the Cowgirls lead the SLC with just over 71 ppg.

They also lead the league in offensive rebounds and are second in rebounds per game.

“We’re a young team but I like where we are,” Kennedy said. “We get better every time.”

The same goes for the Cowboys (6-11) who have won two of their last four games. Improved shooting from Zach Scott and overall play from Christian Schumate contributed to the turnaround.

HBU (4-9) is yet to beat a Division I team. McNeese has two wins over Division I teams, so this will be a test for both.

“You don’t want to start the league with a loss at home, so it’s important that we control the emotions of the day and play our game,” Aiken said. “We also have the chance to play some as opponents and it’s time to stack the couture wins together.”