By Brad Welborn, Northwestern State Assistan Director of Communications
KATY, Texas – A microcosm of the things that plagued Northwestern State at times all season all occurred on the biggest stage Thursday afternoon, ending NSU’s season in a 57-48 loss to New Orleans in the Southland Conference Tournament.
The Lady Demons (12-14, 5-9) committed 22 turnovers, were outrebounded by nine and have more than one scoreless stretch that spanned at least four minutes. UNO scored 15 points off turnovers, including some critical one in the second and third quarters, serving as the biggest difference in the outcome.
“I don’t think anyone saw the best of Lady Demon basketball today,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “But I think our entire program and all of our players need to hold their heads up because we didn’t get the outcome, we wanted but there are so many positives to walk away with from this season.”
NSU had five turnovers in the first five minutes of the game, but were able to keep the Privateers off the scoreboard for the most part.
The first-quarter media timeout seemed to settle NSU’s nerves as they had just one the rest of the period and took quick advantage of UNO’s miscues. Candice Parramore used her speed and quickness for two steals and two layups on consecutive possessions to give NSU a 13-11 lead near the end of the period.
Over the next seven minutes of the game, the Lady Demons played some of their best basketball. Sharna Ayres scored on an offensive put back then got an easy layup on the next trip through a wide open lane getting the pass from Jordan Todd.
JaMiya Braxton drained a 3 on the next trip and the Lady Demons took a 24-18 lead on another Ayres bucket with 4:06 left in the half.
Following the energy bumps from Ayres and Jasmin Dixon, who blocked a shot then scored on a pass from Ayres on the next trip, the Privateers seized control of the game by taking advantage of the turnovers that plagued the Lady Demons earlier in the game.
UNO scored six of its 11 points in the final 3:19 of the half directly off of NSU turnovers. Back-to-back layups in the final two minutes tied the game and gave the Privateers the lead as the Lady Demons failed to cash in on the opportunities they did have to score.
The run to end the half was the beginning of the roughly 10 minute period that ultimately decided who would move on to face Southeastern in the next round of the tournament.
The Lady Demons went scoreless for more than seven minutes at the end of the half and into the third then had another four minute drought at the end of the period that allowed the Privateers to take the 47-31 lead into the final period.
“The last time we played them they started off in man and couldn’t really keep in front of us so they switched to a sagging 2-3 zone and that kind of rattled us,” Parramore said. “They showed that again today, and we talked about it in practice but we just couldn’t get past it.”
Although the NSU offense struggled to crack through the UNO defense, on the other end of the floor the Lady Demons were doing the job on defense.
In the 4:32 scoreless stretch at the end of the third quarter, NSU allowed just two points, forced three turnovers and blocked one shot. The shots on the other end, especially the ones from beyond the arc, just would not fall through the basket.
“You’ve got to be able to hit the outside shot,” Nimz said of the 3-for-20 effort from deep in the game. “That’s the best way to get a team out of a zone is making those shots. We hit a few extra shots and that pulls them out of the zone and we weren’t able to do that.”
Even though the 13 points that UNO scored off turnovers in the second and third quarters were not the most against the Lady Demons this season, they came at a time when the offense was searching its hardest to find its way.
“I think we got into a few possessions where we felt pressure to try and do too much or put the team on our back,” Nimz said. “We had 22 turnovers and that makes it tough to get into a rhythm. It’s something that has been plaguing us and it hasn’t been because anyone has run and jumped us it’s just about continuing to grow our basketball I.Q.”
The Lady Demons finish the season with the largest win improvement (11) from one year to the next in program history and group of players that have only just begun to blossom as a team after just six months of on-court work together.
“This is the right team to lead the Northwestern State Lady Demons,” Nimz said. “We did not win today, but this is a process, and this is a program and I believe whole-heartedly in this group. I think the 12 wins that these girls earned, and a lot more, shows how good of a job they did. I’m disappointed in the game no doubt, but I’m proud of the program.”