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Privateers Basketball, 12-9

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Senior forward Erik Thomas led four players in double figures offensively with 17 points and the Privateers connected on 53.6 percent of its field goals as the University of New Orleans men’s basketball team rolled past Southland Conference foe McNeese, 75-56, on Thursday evening in Lakefront Arena.


UNO gave up the game’s first two points and trailed 5-4 at the first media timeout, but went ahead on a layup by junior swing man Michael Zeno with 15:18 to play in the opening stanza and never trailed again. The win was the third in a row and the eighth in the last nine games as the Privateers improved to 12-7 overall while maintaining their lead in the SLC regular-season standings at 7-1. McNeese, meanwhile, dropped its second-straight contest to fall to 6-13 on the year and 3-5 in conference action.


“We’re so pleased with not only the team’s attitude and effort, but the atmosphere,” UNO head coach Mark Slessinger said. “We had a great student section tonight that brought a ton of energy. Our administration did a great job of getting guys out here and helping grow the crowd. The energy was good and the guys feed off of it. It’s always good to play in this building and with that kind of energy, it’s a great building.


“We guarded at a high rate for most of the night. We had very good voices defensively and did a good job of playing together. To hold that team to 2-for-18 from 3 is tough. They’ve got an array of shooters that can make shots from a lot of places and we were lucky tonight that they didn’t make shots. We know they’re going to shoot it very, very well back at their place and we’re going to have our work cut out for us at Burton Coliseum.”


As a team, New Orleans sank 15-of-28 field goals in both halves and finished the night 4-of-8 from beyond the 3-point arc. Defensively, the Privateers held the Cowboys to a .370 clip (20-of-54), including an 11-of-33 showing in the second half (.333), while limiting McNeese to just two 3-pointers on 18 attempts (.111). UNO held a 37-31 rebounding advantage, outscored McNeese 40-26 in the paint and had 12 fast-break points to the Cowboys’ four.


Thomas finished 7-of-11 from the field and sank half of his six free throw tries to go with seven rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals. Zeno was second on the team with 11 points while senior guard Nate Fryeand junior forward Travin Thibodeaux added 10 each. Thibodeaux tied Thomas for game-high assist honors and paced the Privateers with nine rebounds. Frye and Zeno shared the lead in steals with three thefts apiece, and junior forward Makur Puou posted two of the team’s three blocked shots.


“Erik scored it well early and really catapulted us ahead,” Slessinger said. “Thibodeaux had a solid back end of the second half, really passed the ball well and got a bunch of assists. He helped us move the ball and make open shots. Zeno has been great over the last two weeks. I can’t say enough about Michael and how hard he’s worked. He’s really been working and studying hard to find out what his niche is and then master it. He’s not only giving us great offensive reps but he’s been arguably our most dynamic defender. It’s 100 percent because of his work ethic and his attitude.”


After going ahead for good on Zeno’s bucket 4:42 into the contest, the Privateers traded the next four points with the Cowboys before going on a 7-0 run to create some separation at 14-7. Following a jumper by McNeese’s Howard Thompson with 11:02 to play before the break, New Orleans went on another 7-0 run to go ahead by 12 and the lead never dipped below double digits the rest of the way.


The Privateers’ first-half advantage swelled to as many as 22 at 38-16 with 2:20 on the clock and the closest the Cowboys would get the rest of the night was 17 at 45-28 just under four minutes into the second half. UNO’s lead in the second half dipped below 20 for just 3:49 and the Privateers led by as many as 28 twice in the final four minutes. New Orleans emptied its bench with 3:10 to go and McNeese used an 11-2 run over the final 2:11 to make the score look closer than the game actually played out.


Stephen Ugochukwu led McNeese with 12 points and a game-high 12 rebounds and added a pair of steals and a blocked shot to his double-double effort. Jacob Ledoux came off the bench to added 10 points and led the Cowboy defense with three steals. Jamaya Burr and Jarren Greenwood shared team-high assists honors with three each.


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The student news site of the University of New Orleans
Privateers Basketball, 12-9