DeQuan Hicks scored 24 points and snatched 13 rebounds, helping spark a furious rally in the closing minutes as Northwestern State overcame a 14-point first-half Sam Houston State lead to win 73-64 Monday night and remain perfect through three Southland Conference basketball games.
The Demons closed the game on a 20-4 run, charging from seven points down with 5:35 left to snatch the victory. The final margin was the biggest of the night for Northwestern (9-4 overall, 3-0 in the Southland) while the Demons won for the sixth time in seven games, and the fourth straight contest.
James Hulbin added 14 points and eight rebounds, all the boards in the second half. Shamir Davis scored 12 and posted seven assists, one off his career high, while Jalan West added 10 points, four assists and two steals. Hicks had four assists and three steals while making 9 of 14 shots from the floor.
"He was pretty amazing. That's the kind of player we know he can be, somebody who creates problems for the opponent all over, and tonight, he was big time in the paint," said Demons coach Mike McConathy, pointing out that defensive pressure, forcing the tempo and pounding the ball inside keyed the winning rally against SHSU (8-6, 1-1).
"We turned it up a notch, got them off balance. We switched from our zone to a man with a lot of aggressive defensive pressure,"said McConathy. "We contested shots and got them out of their rhythm, and that made a huge difference.
"Offensively we finally got our cycles going, getting the ball up the floor, pushing it and making things happen.
We had some really nice sequences. We'd score and then get a turnover off defensive pressure," he said.
After making seven turnovers in the first seven minutes, NSU had only five more in the final 33. The Demons struggled at the free throw line in the first half, sinking only 4 of 11, but they drained 11 of 14, including their last eight over the final 3:04 when NSU outscored the Bearkats 11-2.
The Demons trailed for the game's first 30 minutes, finally going up by 51-50 on three straight baskets by senior center O.J. Evans with 9:13 to go. The Bearkats responded with a 10-2 burst into a 60-53 advantage with 5:35 left, but Hicks scored seven straight in just over a minute to get it back to a one-possession game.
West popped two free throws with 3:04 left to give NSU the lead for good.
"We struggled pretty badly but we never lost our composure. We bowed our necks and fought back against a tough opponent on their homecourt," said McConathy.
Northwestern started a three-game road swing this week with the comeback triumph. The Demons meet another Southland leader, Oral Roberts, in Tulsa Thursday night in a game televised by Fox College Sports, then visit Central Arkansas Saturday afternoon.
NSU is at home again next Thursday, Jan. 17 against Nicholls in an ESPN3 game.