Northwestern State Assistant Athletic Director/Media Relations
This time Northwestern State’s second-half surge was enough to win.
The Demons relied on annoying defense and plenty of hustle to overcome an 11-point halftime hole, then held off Southern’s Jaguars 69-66 Saturday night at Centenary’s Gold Dome in the finale of the third annual Shreveport-Bossier Holiday Classic.
NSU (3-8) won for the first time in five games, and after ending an opening stretch that pitted the Demons against nine Division I foes with an aggregate 46-36 record, including Top 25 unbeatens Houston and Texas Tech.
In its last two outings, Northwestern played solid second halves at two of the NCAA’s best last season, Sweet 16 entry Texas A&M and Elite Eight contestant Texas Tech. After another first-half clunker against the Jaguars (1-10), the Demons responded with a gritty effort coupled with overdue shooting aim.
NSU forced 11 second-half turnovers while committing only a pair itself. After making 32 percent of its shots by halftime, Northwestern sank 12 of 20 afterward.
“We’ve got to reconsider what we’re doing getting ready to play, because when we get heated up, we’ve been a much better ballclub,” said 20th-year head coach Mike McConathy. “We were tonight and it had a lot to do with aggressiveness and focus.”
Junior college transfer LaTerrance Reed scored a season-best 17 for the Demons, sinking half his eight 3-point tries. Sophomore point guard C.J. Jones matched his career high with 15 points, draining 9 of 12 free throws while handing out four assists, making two steals and committing a lone turnover in 30 minutes.
Sophomore Darian Dixon added 10 points for NSU, which benefitted from five steals by junior forward Brandon Hutton in 20 minutes. Sophomore center Larry Owens added three steals as the Demons collected a season-best 15 swipes.
Southern got 18 points from both Eddie Reese and Sidney Umude. Reese pumped in five 3-pointers in the first half as the Jaguars pulled away from a 22-all tie to open a 38-27 halftime advantage.
NSU closed the gap to 42-39 in the first four minutes after halftime but didn’t overcome the deficit until the final five minutes on a twisting left-handed scoop under the basket by Owens for a 58-56 edge.
That was in the early stages of a 10-0 run that wiped out a 56-51 Southern lead. After the Demons went up 61-56 on a 3-pointer by Reed with 3:26 left, the Jaguars never had the ball with a chance to tie, let alone take the lead. SU hit a layup at the buzzer to provide a deceptive final margin.
“A big factor was our depth. Southern essentially used six players (with 22 or more minutes) and we had nobody who played more than 11 in the first half, and we were fresher throughout the second half, especially coming down the stretch,” said McConathy, who got a team-high 30 minutes by Jones with nine other Demons logging between 11-27 minutes.
NSU finished with 44 percent overall aim, after making just 25 percent in its loss to 11th-ranked Texas Tech Wednesday night.
The Demons wrap up their pre-Christmas schedule at home Tuesday night at 6:30 against Louisiana College.