Men’s college basketball: Demons eager for Southern matchup in Shreveport-Bossier Holiday Classic

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Doug Ireland
Northwestern State Associate Athletic Director/Media Relations

Finally, the Northwestern State basketball team will have home fans and a strong sense of compatibility with the Demons’ opponent, Southern’s Jaguars, Saturday night at the Centenary Gold Dome in the Shreveport-Bossier Holiday Classic.

Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 in the final of four contests in the one-day event, which begins at 1:30. Adult tickets are $10 with students over 12 admitted for $5.

The Demons (2-8) have played seven of their first 10 games out of state, six of those in Texas, with a schedule including nationally-ranked Texas Tech and Houston, 2018 NCAA Sweet Sixteen entry Texas A&M, BYU, SMU, UTEP, Rice and UTEP.

The Jaguars (1-9) also have played a challenging non-conference slate that is top-heavy with losses at Iowa State, George Mason, Louisville and Baylor. Southern has dropped its last three since a win over Wiley College in its only homecourt appearance.

“I believe we’re better than our record indicates, and watching tape of Southern, the same is true in their case,” said 20th-year Demons’ coach Mike McConathy. “We’ve been on similar paths to this point and that’s one reason this is such an interesting matchup.

“Both schools have campuses in Shreveport, which makes this a wonderful venue to play them for the first time in 12 years,” he said. “We’ve made progress in our last two games and with just three non-conference games left, it’s time to get closer to 40 minutes of solid basketball based on tremendous effort, not just 20 minutes like we saw at A&M and Texas Tech.”

NSU was competitive against the Aggies until A&M’s game-ending 11-2 run pushed the final score to 80-59 on Dec. 3. This past Wednesday, the Demons recovered from an abysmal first half and outscored the No. 11-ranked Red Raiders 34-26, not threatening the outcome in a 79-44 loss but earning plaudits from the winning coach in his postgame press conference.

“The first half, we played about as well as you can play the game of basketball,” said TTU head coach Chris Beard, who led the Red Raiders to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight last March. “The second half, you have to give Northwestern State credit. You couldn’t even tell what the score was, based on how hard they were playing. They gave us all we could handle after halftime, and that’s a great reflection of their character, their team and what they’re all about.”

The Demons got 11 second-half points from senior guard DeAndre Love, who shot 3 for 4 on 3-pointers, two coming after offensive rebounds and kick-out passes from freshman center Dalin Williams. The rookie posted season-best totals of 9 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 assists, all after halftime.

NSU will look for senior center Ishmael Lane to return to form. His 12.3 scoring average included a scoreless night at Texas Tech as he missed 11 shots.

Following the contest at the Gold Dome against Southern, the Demons wrap up their pre-conference schedule Tuesday night at home in a 6:30 meeting with old rival Louisiana College.