NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State’s first half against Southeastern Louisiana Thursday night looked like what the doctor ordered for the struggling Demons.
But a second-half swoon left NSU still ailing. The Lions scored 18 unanswered points over five minutes and held off the Demons’ efforts to rally, prevailing 73-66 at Prather Coliseum.
The Lions (14-13 overall, 7-7 in the Southland) snapped a three-game losing streak and won for only the second time in their last eight outings by flipping the script on the Demons (9-15, 3-10).
NSU dropped its sixth straight since an 85-71 victory at SLU on Jan. 25 when NSU won the rebounding battle by 16. Thursday, the Lions posted the same margin, outrebounding their hosts by 15 after halftime while outscoring them 46-31, wiping away a 35-27 halftime deficit.
The Demons maintained their eight-point advantage for the first five minutes after halftime before the Lions roared to life. NSU missed eight straight shots and committed a pair of turnovers while the visitors poured in 8 of 10, including a couple of 3-pointers. Point guard Marlain Veal assisted on three straight baskets, made a steal, then scored three straight layups to trigger the SLU surge that included five layups and a dunk.
“18-0? Are you kidding me?” said frustrated Demons’ coach Mike McConathy. “They scored a lot of layups because we didn’t get back in transition defense. We took some bad shots, some really bad shots, didn’t try hard enough to get it inside, and they were blitzing it up the floor. We had three timeouts during that period and it still didn’t register.
“We’re not attacking the glass offensively. We stood and watched in the second half. Part of it had to do with how Southeastern was attacking to put themselves in great position to rebound, and we weren’t stopping the ball (defensively),” he said.
Down 54-44 with 10:10 left, NSU bounced back to draw within 55-52 on a 3-pointer by Devonte Hall three minutes later. The Lions scored two straight baskets sandwiched around a steal and the Demons never got within one possession again, getting within four on four occasions but unable to overtake SLU.
Veal had 11 points and 10 assists. Davon Hayes led SLU with 21 points while Eddy Polanco contributed 13 and 7 rebounds. The Lions hit 54 percent after halftime, 48 percent overall. The Demons shot 35 percent in the final half and 39 percent overall, despite a solid 10 of 24 behind the 3-point arc.
Iziahiah Sweeney scored 13, Sabri Thompson 11 and Ishmael Lane 10 for the Demons, who were a paltry 12 of 33 inside the arc. NSU led the entire first half, going up 13-2 and leading by as much as a dozen.
“We had this game where we wanted it, and quit doing what we ask the players to do,” said McConathy. “At some point it’s about young men stepping up and making better decisions and better plays.
“Very, very disheartening. I’m as frustrated as I’ve ever been, not because they’re not good young men, but they’re not doing the things they are capable of, and doing the little things that turn games your way. Last month we were doing that, so it’s in there,” he said.
“If we can find it, we have five games left and anything’s possible.”
NSU goes to Nicholls Saturday night, then hosts Lamar next Wednesday and league-leading New Orleans next Saturday afternoon.