NATCHITOCHES, La. -- Second-year head coach Jordan Dupuy spent the past two days sending a message to his Northwestern State women’s basketball team.
Consider the message received.
Utilizing a new starting five and a more aggressive defensive approach, the Lady Demons steamrolled their way into Christmas break, setting a pair of school records in an 87-22 win against Central Baptist on Wednesday in Prather Coliseum.
“I didn’t have any specific goals as far as turnovers or steals going in,” said Dupuy, whose team established school single-game records for most steals (35) and fewest points allowed. “My biggest thing was aggression, trying to keep them off balance. We’ve had too many games where we’ve been on our heels, and I wanted to make sure we were aggressive the whole time, trapping any time we could, flying around and I think we did a good job of that.
“(The starters) were the team that earned the starting positions. They’ve had great energy. It started with shootaround at TCU. Our starting group was flat. That second group took it to them.”
The 65-point margin of victory was the largest for the Lady Demons (5-6) since defeating Prairie View A&M, 119-42, during the 1992-93 season. The margin is the third-highest in school history, trailing an 83-point win against Hawaii Pacific on March 1, 1986, and the win against Prairie View A&M.
Northwestern State did what it did in a balanced way Wednesday.
All 12 players scored and 10 recorded a steal with four players sharing the team lead with five steals.
In addition to setting school single-game marks, the Lady Demons established new single-game bests for Southland Conference teams this season in fewest field goals allowed (6), steals (35) and turnovers forced (47). The 22 points allowed equaled Central Arkansas for fewest allowed in a game by an SLC team this season.
Prior to Wednesday, the most recent time Northwestern State forced at least 35 turnovers came Dec. 20, 2014, in an overtime loss at Jackson State.
“(Dupuy) said we needed to work on being aggressive,” said Victoria Miller, who set a career high with 10 points and was one of the quartet with five steals. “We’ve struggled to be aggressive for the whole game. He wanted us to run around, go hard. He said, ‘If you make a mistake going hard, I won’t be mad.’ It took away some of the pressure. You let it go and play hard for you team and good things happen.”
The Lady Demons held the NAIA Mustangs, who were playing the game as an exhibition, to single-digit outputs in all four quarters and took their first double-digit lead (15-4) on a Miller layup with 4:36 to play in the first quarter.
Central Baptist twice sliced the lead to 11 in the second quarter, the last time coming with 7:32 to play on a Holly Allen jumper that made it 23-12.
From there, Northwestern State delivered a methodical knockout blow, holding the Mustangs scoreless for 14:47 and embarking on a 38-0 run.
When Emily Ridgell hit the first of two free throws at the 2:35 mark of the third quarter, NSU led 61-13. Ridgell’s free throw was Central Baptist’s lone point of the third quarter, marking the lowest point total the Lady Demons have allowed in the three seasons since the NCAA went to quarters in women’s basketball.
After back-to-back games against Big 12 opponents – No. 8 Texas and TCU – the Lady Demons were the higher-division team Wednesday and looked the part.
NSU outscored Central Baptist in the paint 56-4 and held a 54-6 advantage in points off turnovers. The Lady Demons proved to be deeper as well, posting a 55-12 edge in bench points.
“We hadn’t really been aggressive the last two games,” said freshman guard Jha’ne Wheeler, who had 11 points and five steals. “When we get things going defensively, then the offense will come. It started in practice, going after each other. You practice how you play, and it really translated today on the court.”
The Lady Demons will have an eight-day break between games, returning to action Dec. 28 when they host Nicholls at 6:30 p.m. in the Southland Conference opener for both teams.