Privateers’ winning streak snapped at five, squanders chance to clinch a share of the Southland Conference title
NATCHITOCHES, La. – It was a case of a team fighting for its postseason life and one looking to capture a title. When the final horn sounded, the wounded animal proved to be more successful than the frontrunner as the University of New Orleans men’s basketball team dropped an 83-82 heartbreaker to Southland Conference foe Northwestern State on Saturday afternoon in Prather Coliseum.
In a game featuring 21 ties, the Privateers trailed 81-80 following a 3-pointer by the Demons’ Sabri Thompson with 35.1 seconds remaining, but senior guard Tevin Broyles answered with a driving layup with 26.6 seconds on the clock to give UNO an 82-81 lead. Northwestern State followed with a jumper by Zeek Woodley with 4.3 ticks to go, it appeared as if New Orleans caught the Demon defense sleeping as junior forward Travin Thibodeaux quickly inbounded the basketball and found a streaking teammate headed for an uncontested basket, but Northwestern State was awarded a timeout before the ball was thrown in to strike down the opportunity.
UNO had one more chance and got a wide open look, but a 3-point shot at the buzzer bounded off the back iron and the Privateers will have to wait another game to potentially clinch the SLC title. The loss snapped the team’s five-game winning streak, but New Orleans (17-10) still holds a one-game lead in the conference standings at 12-4. Northwestern State, which will have to win out and get some help from around the league, improved to 11-16 on the year and 5-11 in Southland action.
“I give credit to their team for coming out and playing with a lot of spirit, a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm,” UNO head coach Mark Slessinger said. “We were not our best today. We were not at a high level defensively. We didn’t make as many plays as we needed to. It’s very frustrating in a lot of ways. The end play was one piece of it but in the end, as a coach and a leader, I’ve got to take accountability and responsibility. There were 39 minutes and 47 seconds that we should have been up by more than one, two or three and be able to knock this thing out. We should have been ahead.
“I have to believe and know that this is going to shape us and do something bigger for us. I’m not happy. I’m mad as hell to be honest with you. This was a blown opportunity on our end to come out and close it out. We didn’t play our best today and us not at our best wasn’t good enough to win.”
As a team, the Privateers hit 47.5 percent of their shots from the field (28-of-59), connected on 22-of-31 free throw opportunities (.710) and held a 39-33 rebounding advantage. The Demons, however, shot 51.6 percent in the second half (16-of-31), including a 6-of-13 showing from beyond the 3-point arc (.462), to finish the day with a 46.0 field goal percentage (29-of-63). In addition, Northwestern State turned 12 offensive boards into 15 second-chance points and forced 15 UNO turnovers – including eight via steal – while turning the miscues into another 15 points.
Senior forward Erik Thomas led New Orleans offensively with 23 points while Thibodeaux and Broyles followed with respective totals of 12 and 10. Thibodeaux paced the Privateers with seven rebounds and three assists, and was one of four players to tally a steal. Junior swing man Michael Zeno headlined the UNO defense with a pair of blocked shots.
The first half was a back-and-forth battle from the beginning as the two teams traded the first 24 points and neither squad led by more than five at any point. New Orleans led 19-14 with 9:58 to play in the period, but Northwestern State answered with 3-pointer and a layup by Thompson to tie the game up. The teams traded blows over the next four-plus minutes before the Demons used a 6-0 run to take a 35-32 lead they would not relinquish until the second half. The advantage grew to as many as four on a Jordan Bell bucket with 35 seconds left to make it 39-35 and Thomas made it a two-point affair with a layup with five ticks to go before the break.
It was more of the same early in the second half as the teams battled to ties of 41-, 44- and 46-all before the Demons went on an 8-2 run to go ahead 54-48 with 12:30 left to play. The Privateers answered with a 13-2 run over the next 3:42 to take a 61-56 lead only to Northwestern State come back with 9-3 run and re-tie the game at 64-64 with 8:15 remaining in regulation. Neither team led by more than three the rest of the way.
Woodley came off the bench to lead all players with 28 points as Thompson was next for Northwestern State at 18 and Ishmael Lane added 12. Lane posted the game’s lone double-double with 10 rebounds and the trio of Thompson, Woodley and Josh Boyd had three assists each. Defensively, Thompson, Woodley and Iziahiah Sweeney had two steals apiece while both Thompson and Tra’von Joseph added one block each.
The Privateers return to action on Thursday, March 2, when they close out the home portion of the 2016-17 schedule against Southeastern Louisiana at 7:45 p.m. The game is the second half of a UNO doubleheader as the women’s teams from both schools will open the day with a 5:30 p.m. tipoff. For tickets to that game, as well as future New Orleans Athletics events, contact the UNO Athletics Ticket Office over the phone at (504) 280-GAME (4263) or via the Internet by clicking HERE.
COACH SLESSINGER’S QUOTES FOLLOWING SATURDAY’S 83-82 LOSS AT NORTHWESTERN STATE
Overall thoughts on the game
“I give credit to their team for coming out and playing with a lot of spirit, a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm. We were not our best today. We were not at a high level defensively. We didn’t make as many plays as we needed to. It’s very frustrating in a lot of ways. The end play was one piece of it but in the end, as a coach and a leader, I’ve got to take accountability and responsibility. There were 39 minutes and 47 seconds that we should have been up by more than one, two or three and be able to knock this thing out. We should have been ahead.”
On what his team takes from a game like this
“I have to believe and know that this [loss] is going to shape us and do something bigger for us. I’m not happy. I’m mad as hell to be honest with you. This was a blown opportunity on our end to come out and close it out. We didn’t play our best today and us not at our best wasn’t good enough to win.”
On playing the first half with foul issues
“We go through the first half in foul trouble at the perimeter positions like we’ve never had all season. We haven’t experienced foul trouble that deep in 27 games. We just didn’t manage some things that we needed to manage and we didn’t knock out some pieces that we needed to knock out. This is extremely disappointing to say the least.”
On the final home game of the season on Thursday vs Southeastern Louisiana
“We hope that we get all of our faithful out and that we have people out there ready to celebrate an opportunity for us to turn the corner and take a huge step forward as a program. It’ll be another chance to get ourselves a conference title and for us to get a double bye in the tournament and a chance to get into the Big Dance – the NCAA Tournament.”