By Brad Welborn, Northwestern State Assistant Sports Information Director
BEAUMONT, Texas – It was a true tale of two halves for Northwestern State on Saturday as a effective and efficient second half could not make up for the lusterless first in a 75-57 loss to Lamar.
The 56 percent shooting effort from the field over the final 20 minutes of the game led to just a one-point differential between the teams, but it was not enough to make up for the 0-for-7 stretch through the first six minutes of the first quarter and the 24 percent total in the half.
“We didn’t lock down our players and our shots weren’t falling early in the game,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “Our success is derived from our defense and when we give up 24 points in the first quarter, I don’t believe that we showed up ready to compete right away.”
With the Lady Demons (9-12, 5-6) scuffling offensively, the Cardinals did anything but, jumping out to a 21-4 lead through the first seven minutes of the game behind a 17-0 run. Lamar (12-10, 6-5) made nine of its 10 field goal attempts during the stretch that finally came to an end on a pair of free throws from Candice Parramore.
The Cardinals made three shots from beyond the arc during the run, equal to the total they made in the entire game in the loss in Natchitoches a week ago.
The NSU defense began to settle into the game in the second quarter, holding the Cardinals to a 3-for-14 effort, but misses on its first seven attempts from the field did not cut into the big Lamar lead.
After the lengthy drought, Joelle Johnson and Jiselle Woodson connected on back-to-back buckets to give the Demons a slight bump in momentum. Lamar stretched the lead back up to 17 in the final minute with its fourth 3-pointer of the half and pair of free throws to make it a 36-19 game at the half.
The second half went much differently for the Demons.
NSU scored on its first four possessions of the second half and seven of the first eight, getting production from five different players along the way. Joelle Johnson scored four of the 17 points for the team during the seven-minute span of the third quarter.
“I was happy to see when we came out for the second half we more locked in and had a sense of urgency about ourselves,” Nimz said. “I think we need to continue to grow and learn and have that fighting desire to play for 40 minutes, have success for 40 minutes but more than anything leave it all on the court for 40 minutes. Winning and losing is part of the game but we never want to walk off the court not feeling like we played our very best.”
The Cardinals had answers all along the way to the much more efficient Demon offense, extending their halftime lead by one points by nearly edging NSU in scoring 23-22 in the third thanks to a buzzer-beating jumper.
The Demons carried their level of play into and throughout the final 10 minutes with Woodson turning things up another notch.
After a seven-point third quarter, she added nine more in the fourth including a stretch of seven straight points for the Demons in the span of 52 seconds midway through the period.
After one of her season-high seven made free throws, where she went a perfect 7-for-7 from the line in the game, Woodson dropped in a jumper from the near the line on the next possession and after a steal on the ensuing inbound play, sprinted ahead for the easy layup.
A Parramore 3-pointer on the next trip, that gave her a fifth straight double-figure scoring game, the 30th of her NSU career, cut the lead down to 12 with 3:34 to go. A Lamar timeout squelched any potential Demon fire and the Cardinals scored the final six points of the game to seal the victory.
Woodson fell one point shy of matching her career high from earlier this season with 23 points, adding three rebounds and three assists to her line.
The loss is the fourth straight on the road for the Demons and fifth in conference play this year.
“The last few home games we really saw a lot of maturity in our play, had quick starts and we’ve got to learn to take that on the road,” Nimz said. “We need to be playing our best basketball in February leading into the conference tournament. We need to start proving that we are able to show up, start quick and play hard for 40 minutes when we’re not in Prather Coliseum.”