LAKE CHARLES -- Looking into a mirror should be helpful Saturday as the young Northwestern State basketball team tries to rebound from a lopsided loss beginning Southland Conference competition.
The Demons visit the McNeese Cowboys Saturday at 3:30 in the second half of the first doubleheader in league play, with the women’s teams from the in-state rivals colliding at 1 in Burton Coliseum.
NSU (3-9 overall, 0-1 in the Southland) and McNeese (4-7, 1-0) have common ground and similar approaches thanks to the longstanding ties between head coaches Mike McConathy and Dave Simmons, who was an NSU assistant until getting the McNeese post for the 2007-08 season.
“Dave knows us inside and out. The personnel has changed through the years, but we still do a lot of things the same way. That always makes for a good matchup when we play them,” said McConathy.
That could help the Demons, the nation’s fifth-youngest team, to narrow its focus at an opportune time. NSU was shaky most of Thursday night while committing 26 turnovers in an 87-46 loss at Nicholls.
“We have to recalibrate and put the players in the most opportune position to perform, and they have to give relentless effort,” said McConathy. “We came out on our heels and didn’t have the focus or intensity we needed at Nicholls. We did better at times in the second half as we all got a handle on how everybody was fitting in, and we competed much harder.”
The Demons outrebounded the Colonels by 14 after halftime but were unable to get back into range. The final spread was the game’s largest and the biggest losing margin for NSU in 31 seasons of Southland Conference competition.
NSU is going without three of its four point guards. Unavailable are seniors Jalan West and Devonte Hall, and freshman Czar Perry, all out indefinitely with unrelated personal issues, with West missing his first game Thursday. That leaves freshman C.J. Jones as the only true point guard, with freshman Vontay Ott stepping into the role for 16 of his 21 minutes.
Veterans Ishmael Lane (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Iziahiah Sweeney (11 rebounds) were flanked by seven newcomers sharing the workload at Nicholls. Also in the mix is sophomore Malik Metoyer, who did not play last year’s conference schedule after knee surgery.
McNeese remained perfect at home Thursday night, pasting Incarnate Word 85-62, owning a 13-rebound advantage and harassing the Cardinals’ shooters all night. The Cowboys’ post players, Quatarrious Wilson and Stephen Ugochukwu, combined to snag 20 rebounds while Wilson posted 20 points and Ugochukwu made six blocks.
Saturday will bring NSU’s sixth straight road game. The Demons play at A&M Corpus Christi next Wednesday before finally getting home next Saturday for a stretch of four contests in Prather Coliseum in a six-game span.