Northwestern State moved ahead of Indiana into the top spot in NCAA Division I basketball's scoring rankings Monday, setting up a classic matchup Saturday afternoon in Prather Coliseum against the country's top defensive team, Stephen F. Austin.
The Demons raised their season's scoring average to 85.0 points per game when they slaughtered Southeastern Louisiana 103-68 on Saturday. Indiana is scoring 84.4 per game and Ole Miss is third with an 82.4 average.
Stephen F. Austin has been No. 1 nationally nearly all season long in scoring defense, with the Lumberjacks allowing only 49.4 points, just ahead of Virginia (50.6) and Florida (51.7).
"They lock down and defend better than anyone else we play, and this year, they are better than anybody in the country. That's always been their system and it's tough to play against," said NSU senior guard Shamir Davis. "We like to push the tempo and score a lot of points. It's always been a great battle between our teams because our styles are so different."
Neither team plays before Saturday's contest. The game is slated for a 3 p.m. tipoff following a 1 o'clock women's contest between the longtime rivals.
"The games against SFA are the kind that everybody in and around our program circles the dates once the schedules are set every year. It's a great rivalry of schools two hours apart in the Southland Conference, with two very similar communities, universities and avid fans," said 14th-year Demons coach Mike McConathy. "Now with the best scoring team in the country going against the best scoring defense, we have a matchup that people around the country will notice.
"I can't imagine there have been many times where the No. 1 offense in college basketball has faced the No. 1 defense, especially in a conference game," he said.
At 16-1 with 14 straight wins, SFA has the nation's fourth-longest winning streak and is perfect in Southland Conference competition with a 7-0 mark, all alone in first. The Demons are 11-6 overall and 5-2 in the conference.
Adding to the allure of the afternoon action on Saturday is the opening contest between the rapidly-improving Lady Demons, who have won two straight and three of their last four home games, and SFA's Ladyjacks.
"The women's basketball rivalry between our schools is by far the most tradition-rich in the Southland, and now that we're playing conference doubleheaders, it makes for what will be a very exciting afternoon of basketball Saturday in Prather Coliseum," said McConathy.