By Jason Pugh, Northwestern State Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
HOUSTON – Northwestern State’s Jekyll and Hyde offense reared its head during Saturday night’s Southland Conference opener against Houston Baptist.
A first half in which the Demons did little wrong was followed by a final 25 minutes in which Northwestern State scuffled from long range, allowing Houston Baptist to rally to force overtime before pulling away for a 99-93 win against the Demons inside Sharp Gym.
“When you score 93 points, you ought to win,” 22nd-year head coach Mike McConathy said. “That’s frustrating. I thought our staff did an unbelievable job getting our guys ready. We just didn’t finish. It’s unfortunate we let one get away. We’ll just have to steal one back somewhere.”
Northwestern State (1-11, 0-1) had one of its fastest starts of the season, shooting 54.5 percent in the first 20 minutes and taking a seven-point lead.
Included in that stretch was a 5-for-13 performance from 3-point range that helped the Demons build as much as a 12-point lead in the opening frame.
Portending the final minute or so of regulation, HBU (2-7, 1-0) was able to slice that 12-point lead to seven, setting up a second-half that saw neither team lead by more than seven.
The Huskies broke quickly in the final 20 minutes, taking their first lead of the game by virtue of an 11-3 run across the first 3:56 of the half. While HBU utilized its outside shooting to get itself back in the game, the Demons went inside, specifically to Larry Owens.
Owens powered his way to a career-high 24 points, sinking eight of 10 shots from the floor. The 6-foot-7, 300-pounder scored 15 points in the second half, helping offset an NSU offense that missed 15 of its final 17 3-point attempts in the second half.
One of NSU’s two second-half 3s – both by Jairus Roberson – came with 1:07 to play to give the Demons an 82-77 lead.
The Demons held an 84-82 lead after a Pedro Castro 3 before NSU could not muster a good shot offensively before Darius Lee drew a foul with 2.35 seconds to play.
Lee, who finished with a game-high 30 points and 11 rebounds, saw his first free throw bounce off the heel of the rim and fall straight in before swishing the second to tie the game.
Trenton Massner, who had 14 of Northwestern State’s first 17 points and finished with 20, saw his half-court heave rattle in and out at the buzzer.
“I’m really, really pleased with Larry’s play,” McConathy said. “He has to build on that. He made some shots to get us going, but it wasn’t enough. We gave up 14 offensive rebounds and got outrebounded by 10 in the second half. That hurts.”
The Demons fell for the second time in overtime this season, falling behind early in an extra period for the second time as the Huskies tallied the first six points.
“We were down six (late in the second half) and made some unbelievable defensive plays to get us back in it,” McConathy said. “In overtime, they went big and we got caught in a situation where they had five quick points and we were scrambling.”
While Massner and Owens gave NSU its first pair of 20-point scorers in a game since the 2020 regular-season finale at Central Arkansas, HBU was more balanced offensively, putting four players in double figures.
In addition to Lee’s 30 points, Castro (19), Hunter Janacek (16) and Za-Ontay Boothman (13) reached double figures for the Huskies.
The Demons return to action Wednesday, hosting Incarnate Word in NSU’s Southland Conference home opener. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. in Prather Coliseum.
— Featured photo courtesy of HBU Athletics