Christavious Gill and Kevin Hill tied career highs with 21 points apiece to guide the UNO men’s basketball team to an 81-71 win over McNeese State on Monday night at Lakefront Arena.

“Christavious did a good job of taking the shots that came to him and not over-penetrating,” UNO coach Mark Slessinger said. “Kevin took away those four possessions a game where he takes a bad shot or gets a turnover, and he got it back out and we were able to get good shots off of that. We were patient, we moved the ball and we didn’t over-penetrate and the ball didn’t stick in our hands. So overall, it was a fun night.”

Both teams stayed close the entire second half, remaining within four points of each other for the first 16 minutes, but UNO (7-13, 3-8 Southland) put together a late 10-2 run, capped by a Tevin Broyles layup that gave it a 69-62 lead with 2:11 left.

The Cowboys (9-13, 3-8) tried to climb their way back into it, but the Privateers made 9 of 10 free throws in the final 70 seconds.

“We really took care of the basketball,” Slessinger said. “We were able to take good shots, get into the paint and get good shots from an attacking position. ... We were able to get some good shots, and fortunately we were able to knock them down.”

After being held to 38.2 percent shooting in their 68-61 loss at McNeese on Jan. 31, the Privateers took command of the game Monday, making 58.7 percent of their shots. Gill said the major difference was ball movement and the way the players got everyone involved.

“Coach made us make good reads in practice all week,” Gill said, “and we brought that into the game today.”

The Privateers had trouble with the McNeese defense early and turned the ball over six times in the first five minutes as they fell into a 13-5 hole. Once the Privateers started getting better looks, they cut into their deficit and even took a 19-18 lead with 10:38 left in the half after a Nate Frye free throw.

The Cowboys quickly took the lead back and held onto it for just about the rest of the half until Gill nailed back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 27 seconds to give UNO a 35-30 lead at halftime.

“I was just scoring the ball like Coach wanted me to do,” said Gill, who went 8-of-10 from the field and made all four of his 3-point attempts. “I’ve been off for like five games straight, and Coach told me to come out firing this game. He had faith in me, and it finally paid off.”

Privateers forward Terrance Syon, who entered the game as UNO’s second-leading rebounder, was removed from the game early in the second half and sent to the locker room after a verbal dispute on the bench with Slessinger. Syon finished with three points and a rebound in 16 minutes.

“He’s just super competitive … and sometimes his emotions can get the best of him,” Slessinger said. “He wears his emotion on his sleeve, and that can be his best attribute, but sometimes it can be his worst.”

Forward Desharick Guidry led the charge for the Cowboys with 20 points and nine rebounds.