By Jason Pugh, Northwestern State Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State men’s basketball team needed to not give visiting Stephen F. Austin any extra possessions in Wednesday night’s Southland Conference matchup.
The Demons, however, surpassed their season average in turnovers, and the Lumberjacks took full advantage, using the help to score an 83-57 victory inside Prather Coliseum.
“They’re remarkably tough, physical and quick to the ball,” said 22nd-year head coach Mike McConathy, whose team saw its season-long, six-game win streak come to an end. “We only got beat by seven on the boards, but we had 19 turnovers, and they scored 30 points off those. You can’t do that against a bad team, but certainly can’t do that against a very good, well-coached team.”
The rematch of SFA’s 12-point Jan. 20 win in Nacogdoches, Texas, played out in similar style.
Northwestern State (8-15, 7-5) stayed within striking distance at halftime, trailing by nine, but the Lumberjacks (14-3, 10-1) opened the second half with a 13-3 run across the first 4:18 to take control of the game.
NSU committed a pair of turnovers in the run, and SFA turned them into five points.
“We held them in check to get it back to nine at half, and then, ‘Boom,’ to start the second half,” McConathy said. “We didn’t get the rebound, and they were going as hard as they possibly could. Nigel Hawkins was phenomenal, just getting it and going as quickly as he could.”
NSU’s 19 turnovers tied its highest total in Southland Conference play, equaling the same number the Demons had in an 81-73 win against New Orleans on Jan. 27.
In that game, the Demons overcame their mistakes by shooting 51.6 percent from the field. Against the Lumberjacks, Northwestern State hit just 15 of 45 shots, marking its lowest shooting percentage in a conference matchup this season.
A pair of Demons reached double figures as Jovan Zelenbaba tallied a career-high 16 points and added another career best with seven rebounds. Carvell Teasett finished with 12 points, two nights after a career-high 25-point performance against Houston Baptist.
“I thought he had a great game,” McConathy said. “He’s out there shooting free throws right now, which is a good thing. He was four of seven from the free-throw line. He had 16 points and seven rebounds. Those are the things he can do that will make us better. He seized the opportunity by going out and playing hard and attacking the bucket.”
Gavin Kensmil led three Lumberjacks in double figures with 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds. David Kachelries added 16 points and Hawkins had 14 off the bench.
SFA finished just shy of its season shooting percentage, hitting 52.3 percent of their shots. The Lumberjacks came in shooting 53.2 percent from the field.
“We’ll push the reset button,” McConathy said. “We got beat by a team that was exceptional tonight. We didn’t compete. We didn’t do what we needed to. We have to regroup and come back prepared to do what we need to do on Saturday.”
The Demons return to action Saturday when they host Southeastern Louisiana at 3 p.m. in Prather Coliseum.
— Featured photo by Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services