LAKE CHARLES, LA-- The Northwestern State women’s basketball team displayed perhaps its most convincing start to a game this season Saturday afternoon in Burton Coliseum.
The Lady Demons even ended their Southland Conference matchup with McNeese strong as well. However, a rough middle section gave the Cowgirls enough of an edge for McNeese to hang on and hand Northwestern State a 72-67 Southland Conference loss.
“The second quarter is what killed us,” second-year head coach Jordan Dupuy said. “We got in a lot of foul trouble and had to play a lot of people a lot more minutes than they need to be playing. It got extremely, extremely physical throughout the game, and it seemed like every one of those calls went against us.”
The Lady Demons (5-8, 0-2) were whistled for 33 fouls, leading to 31 free throws for the Cowgirls (6-7, 2-0), who had a six-point advantage from the line.
For the second straight game, Northwestern State outshot is opponent, hitting 44.9 percent of its shots to McNeese’s 38.3 percent. Much like in Thursday’s loss to Nicholls, it was where the Lady Demons fell short that cost Northwestern State.
McNeese had a plus-16 advantage on the glass thanks in large part to a 23-8 advantage in offensive rebounds. The Cowgirls turned those extra opportunities into a 16-point edge in second-chance points.
“We didn’t do what we needed to do on the glass,” Dupuy said. “They had 23 offensive rebounds and 23 second-chance points to our seven. That’s the game right there.”
Two days after hitting a season-high 10 3-pointers against Nicholls, the Lady Demons kept that hot shooting going early, connecting on 5 of 7 first-quarter 3-pointers to take a 26-13 lead after 10 minutes.
Nautica Grant supplied much of the sharpshooting, knocking down three first-quarter 3-pointers among her 13 points in the opening frame.
Buoyed by its dominance of the offensive glass, McNeese fought all the way back to tie the game at 35 at the half and then hit all six of its third-quarter free throws to take a lead into the final 10 minutes.
Once Jasmyn Carswell hit a jumper from the elbow with 5:40 to play, McNeese had its largest lead of the game, 64-50.
That’s when Grant, who had four points total in the middle two quarters, regained her hot hand. The left-handed junior put together a personal 8-0 run over the next 1:44 to pull Northwestern State to within six.
Grant had 10 points in the final quarter, finishing with a career-high 27 points while sinking a career-high five 3-pointers. Libba Gilliam gave the Lady Demons a second double-figure scorer, finishing with 12 points.
“This is what we thought Nautica was capable of to be very honest,” Dupuy said. “We challenged her. We go onto her. She went home for the break and put in the work. She’s been shooting the ball really well. She’s understanding the scheme more, and with Cheyenne (Brown) out, we’re going to need her to give us at least 15 points a night.”
Thanks to Grant and a banked-in 3-pointer by Gabby Bell, the Lady Demons pulled within two (67-65) with just more than a minute to play.
A layup by Leah Barnes answered three McNeese free throws, and the Lady Demons had a chance to tie the game with less than 30 seconds to play, but an offensive foul erased NSU’s final offensive possession in a one-possession game.
Mercedes Rogers came off the bench to lead four Cowgirls in double figures with 17 points while Bre’Ashlee Jones (15 points, 12 rebounds), Caitlin Davis (13) and Regan Bolton (12) joined her.
The Lady Demons return home to begin a two-game Southland Conference homestand Wednesday when they host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. inside Prather Coliseum.