Hot-shooting Abilene Christian denies McConathy 600th win

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NATCHITOCHES – When Parker Wentz had poured in 21 points as Abilene Christian bombed in 8 of 17 first-half 3-pointers to open a nine-point lead, Northwestern State hadn’t seen the worst of it.

That came as the Wildcats drained their first six treys of the second half, making 8 of 10 in the final 20 minutes to post a 16 of 27 night beyond the arc and triggering a 95-81 whipping of the Demons Tuesday night in Southland Conference basketball.

ACU (9-7 overall, 3-0 in the Southland) shocked the Demons (7-8, 2-2), picked second in the preseason Southland coaches’ poll, by hitting 58 percent overall, 59 percent on 3s, and 92 percent at the free throw line. Wentz more than doubled his 13.4 scoring average, finishing with 29, but the 31 points from Harrison Hawkins paced the Wildcats, who got 20 by LaDerrien Williams. They combined to shoot 14 of 23 on 3s.

“In all my years, I don’t know that I’ve seen a better shooting night against my team. And it wasn’t just that they shot extraordinarily well. They moved the ball beautifully, they played smart, and they played hard,” said 16th-year Demons coach Mike McConathy, a veteran of 32 years coaching college basketball denied his 600th career win by ACU. “But they hit some tough, tough shots too and those are the ones that jump out, looking back.

“No problem with our effort and we had a pretty good offensive night, looking at the box score,” he said. “But we couldn’t stop the ball. We had two steals and we average nine. Some of that was us not doing the job defensively, some of it was ACU playing extremely well.”

NSU’s Jalan West did all he could to keep the Demons in it, posting a second straight 30-point game. After 33 Saturday in a 103-101 win over Incarnate Word, West posted 30 against ACU, making 10 of 17 shots, including 3 of 7 on 3s. Junior college transfer Tony Dobbinson exploded for 19 first-half points to help the Demons hang in and finished with 21, his first double-digit game at NSU. Zeek Woodley scored 19 and snatched eight rebounds.

But the other eight Demons who played combined for only 13 points.

Losing at home in Prather Coliseum for only the second time in the last 15 outings, the Demons never led. The Wildcats took their first double-digit advantage on a Williams layup 8:08 before halftime and the spread was as much as 16 before Dobbinson drained a fallaway 3 at the buzzer to get NSU within 9 at the break.

NSU twice got the margin down to six in the first four minutes of the second half, before ACU’s long distance aim made a decisive strike. The Wildcats sank four 3s in a 13-2 burst over three minutes, opening a 67-50 advantage with 12:51 to go. Williams scored seven in that stretch, starting it with a 3-pointer.

The spread climbed to 73-53, the biggest difference, with 10:30 remaining. The Demons couldn’t sustain runs over the next seven minutes before a West layup with 2:38 left was part of a 6-0 burst that got them under 10, down 85-76.

ACU hit all eight of its free throws from that point as NSU got no closer.

The Demons cap a three-game homestand Saturday afternoon against Lamar in the second side of a doubleheader starting with a 1 p.m. women’s game between the schools.

— Northwestern State Sports Information