NATCHITOCHES -- James Hulbin's 19 points led four double-digit scorers Thursday night as Northwestern State notched 21 steals and harried Oral Roberts into 28 turnovers in an 85-73 victory over the visiting Golden Eagles in a matchup of two of the top three teams in the Southland Conference basketball race as a season-high 2,933 watched at Prather Coliseum.
The outcome moved the Demons (15-6 overall, 9-2 in the Southland) into a second-place tie with the Golden Eagles (14-9, 9-2), one game back of Stephen F. Austin (19-2, 10-1), who hosts ORU Saturday night while Northwestern plays host to high-scoring Central Arkansas Saturday afternoon at 3 in Prather Coliseum. If ORU can pull an upset at SFA, it would create a three-way tie atop the conference standings with six league games to go.
Shamir Davis added 14 points and three steals, while Gary Roberson and DeQuan Hicks each scored 12 for Northwestern, which hit its national-best 83.8 scoring average. The Demons' season-high steals total, with nine players contributing, more than doubled their 9.7 average that ranks 10th nationally.
Point guard Jalan West had nine assists, five steals and three turnovers, padding his national rankings of 12th in steals (2.5 average), 23rd in assist-turnover ratio (+2.6) and 46th in assists (5.3). All 10 Demons who played scored and had at least a rebound.
Oral Roberts got a game-high 28 points from Shawn Glover while Damen Bell-Holter contributed 23 points and 14 rebounds. The Golden Eagles fell behind six minutes into play and never fully recovered, although they cut a 9-point deficit to 38-36 at halftime.
A Bell-Holter free throw drew ORU within 38-37 but the Demons scored the next seven points on 3-pointers by Roberson and Hulbin, and a Hicks free throw, in a 67-second burst to go up 45-37. ORU got no closer than six afterward.
Davis and West each nailed 3-pointers in a 10-1 spurt over three minutes to carry Northwestern to a 59-44 advantage. The margin got up to 17, and never fell under 10 points down the stretch.
"Those 3s to open the second half gave us a big lift," said Demons' coach Mike McConathy. "Our defensive pressure was outstanding for most of the second half. We stumbled home but we did enough to hold them off. "
The outcome evened the season series that opened Jan. 10 with an 80-74 ORU win in Tulsa.