HAMMOND -- Northwestern State puts a Southland Conference-best six-game win streak on the line Thursday night when the second-place Demons visit the fourth-place Southeastern Louisiana Lions in a 7:15 contest at the University Center.
Northwestern (16-6 overall, 10-2 in the Southland) squares off against SLU (9-12 overall, but 7-4 in the conference) hoping for its first win in five tries on the Lions' homecourt. The Demons whipped SLU by 17 last season in Prather Coliseum, but were beaten 66-61 two weeks later in Hammond.
NSU coach Mike McConathy is hoping that hard lesson resonates with his team, because the Lions had the low ebb in their league schedule last month at Prather Coliseum as the Demons rolled 103-68.
"We caught them at the right time for us, and we were stinging after a poor performance ourselves two nights earlier when we got whipped by Nicholls (93-78). They had a bad day, we had a great one. What has a lot more bearing on Thursday night is how well they are playing now, and that they have some of the best players in our league, led by Brandon Fortenberry, who is a tremendous guard," said McConathy. "We've gone there and not come out happy four straight years. Our work is cut out for us."
Fortenberry is scoring 14.1 per game, and had 30 last Saturday as SLU won at rival Nicholls. The Lions also have one of the league's top inside players, Roosevelt Johnson, third in the league in rebounding at 8.4 per game.
The game pits the Demons' NCAA-best offense, averaging 84.3 points per game, against a deliberate Lions squad scoring 62.3 per contest. NSU is 11th in the country in assists per game (16.5) after averaging 21 per game in the last four contests, making an assist on 66 percent of their baskets (84-128).
NSU has revved up its defense recently, soaring to fourth nationally in steals per game (10.6) by averaging 15.2 in the last five games, including 19.5 in wins over Oral Roberts and Central Arkansas last week.
Junior forward DeQuan Hicks tops the NSU offense with a 14.7 scoring average and is the top rebounder at 6.4 per game. Senior guard Shamir Davis is scoring 12.9 per game while senior forward James Hulbin is at 12.4 points per game and 6.3 rebounds, while shooting 54 percent overall and 42 percent on three-pointers. Redshirt freshman guard Jalan West adds 10.6 points per game.
West is 11th nationally in steals (2.6 pg), 18th in assist-turnover ratio (plus 2.7) and 37th in assists (5.4 average). Hicks is 14th in the NCAA statistics for field goal aim (58 percent).
Davis has become the 27th player in program history to pass the career 1,000-point mark, and now has 1,027.
The Demons' six-game win streak is their best since the 2007 Southland season. They haven't won seven in a row since reeling off 12 straight in the 2006 conference race.
The game will be broadcast on the Demon Sports Network, flagshipped by 100.7 FM KZBL in Natchitoches and including 92.1 FM KSYR in Shreveport and 99.9 KTEZ FM in Many.
The Demons stay on the road for a Saturday visit to Nicholls, then play a Tuesday night contest at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi as part of five straight road games until a March 2 return to Prather Coliseum.