Demons recover to outlast Southeastern Louisiana
HAMMOND, La. (NSU Sports Information) - Armed with as much as a 21-point lead in the first half, the Northwestern State men’s basketball team likely did not think a white-knuckle finish was in the offing.
That is exactly what happened inside the University Center on Saturday afternoon as the Demons weathered a valiant comeback effort by Southeastern Louisiana to hang for a 73-68 Southland Conference victory.
“This may sound crazy, but we needed a win in the most desperate way,” 22nd-year head coach Mike McConathy said. “What happens when you get up and they start coming back and chipping away, you start to think, ‘Oh no, here we go again.’ Then they take a couple of leads, and you’re able to answer with a bucket and eventually go up by five points. That’s big for us.”
Both ends of the experience spectrum paved the way for the Demons (3-14, 2-4) as they broke a seven-game losing streak in the series with SLU (4-11, 2-4) and an overall three-game skid.
Once the Lions took their first lead of the game at 64-62 with 4:38 to play, the teams traded buckets before freshman Carvell Teasett knocked down the biggest shot of the game.
Out ahead of the pack, Teasett slowed down and calmly connected on a straight-ahead, go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:02 to play. Northwestern State never trailed after Teasett’s bucket.
“I was pushing the ball trying to get someone open,” said Teasett, who had 11 assists in his previous game at Stephen F. Austin. “I was looking up the court. I backed it out and saw everyone go past me. I thought, ‘You might not get another open shot, so you better shoot it.’”
The Demons expanded that slim lead on back-to-back baskets from senior Larry Owens, who led four Demons in double figures with 14 points. Owens tallied a layup and a breakaway two-handed dunk off a long feed from Brian White to push the lead to five at 71-66 with 42 seconds to play.
Joining Owens in double figures were Trenton Massner (13), Kendal Coleman (12), and LaTerrance Reed (11).
“Winning, finishing strong, I had it on my mind all day long,” said Owens, who turned in his third double-figure scoring day in conference play. “We have to take it one game at a time and start winning. We had to play together from guards to bigs. As our coaches say, it’s about we, not me.”
The Demons weathered a three-shot foul as Gus Okafor (game-high 20 points) made two of three, missing the final free throw. Coleman, a freshman, secured the miss and was fouled, earning him a one-and-one trip to the free-throw line with 16.4 seconds to play.
Coleman coolly sank both free throws, punctuating a 12-point, eight-rebound performance for the Captain Shreve High School product, who leads the Demons in rebounding.
“I knew we needed both of them,” Coleman said. “I knew it was a three-point game, and if I knock them down, it’s a two-possession game. Going to the line, I had to focus and knock them down.”
While the Demons built their 21-point, first-half lead on an offense that blistered the nets early – hitting 14 of 20 shots to start the game – it was a much tighter defensive effort down the stretch that allowed Northwestern State to even its road record in conference play at 2-2.
After Southeastern took its 64-62 lead with 4:32 to play, the Demons held the Lions to 0-for-3 shooting with four turnovers in the remainder of the game, allowing NSU to grab a win in a game where it shot a season-best 55.6 percent from the field (30-for-54).
“One thing I thought was really good was when we were up by five, and they came over and said, ‘We can’t give up a 3 like we did at Houston Baptist,’” McConathy said. “We made some adjustments defensively in the final four minutes. Nathan Moyle, who was on our staff a couple of years ago, came over and said, ‘You guys really cranked it up.’
“It was huge for us to find a way to win. The way the game played out – we’re up 21, they come back; we’re up 10, they come back and we push it back out – we had answers for them each time. That was very, very important for us.”
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