Demons’ depth outlasts Lamar, pushes NSU win streak to four
NATCHITOCHES, La. (KALB) - The Southland Conference’s leading scorer did not dent the scoring column for more than 35 minutes Saturday afternoon.
Still, the Northwestern State men’s basketball team was undeterred.
The Demons spread out the scoring and were as efficient offensively as they have been all season as they extended their win streak to four games with an 80-65 Southland Conference victory against Lamar.
“Depth really helps,” first-year head coach Corey Gipson said. “Depth grows throughout the year. The depth we have now we didn’t have earlier in the season. We have a phrase, ‘Would you rather have two new players in March or two new plays in March?’ We have two new players before March, because these guys are putting in the time from the shoulders up and watching film.”
The Demons weathered a first half in which Ja’Monta Black, the Southland Conference’s leading scorer at 17.2 points per game, did not score.
Coming off his third 31-point performance of the season Thursday night, Black did not score until sinking a second-chance 3-pointer with 3:50 to play off a Greedy Williams feed.
Black’s off night did not affect the Demons (14-8, 6-3) because of their offensive depth. The Demons had three players reach double figures by halftime, more than picking up the slack.
Emareyon McDonald hit three first-half 3-pointers en route to 13 points while DeMarcus Sharp (12) and Jalen Hampton (10) each hit the 10-point mark in the opening 20 minutes.
NSU, the Southland Conference’s leading 3-point shooting team in terms of made 3s per game at 9.2, shot 7 for 13 from deep in the opening half as part of a 19-for-33 overall shooting display, connecting on 57.6 percent of its first-half shots.
McDonald finished with a career-high 18 points, tying a career-high with four made 3-pointers on seven attempts. A sophomore from Coushatta, McDonald was 7-for-10 from the field, helping NSU shoot a season-best 57.4 percent from the field.
McDonald added a pair of steals, his second multi-theft effort in the past three games. “Coach always says next man up,” McDonald said. “Somebody goes down, I just have to bring my physicality and my defense. It’s not all about offense, but if I see one go in, it helps me.”
Northwestern State locked down the Cardinals (6-16, 2-7) defensively in the first half, holding Lamar to 38.7-percent shooting in building a 15-point halftime lead.
As Lamar made a couple of runs in the second half, the Demons turned to their offense to slow Lamar’s momentum.
Numerous times it was Sharp’s playmaking and shot-making that made the difference. Sharp notched his fourth double-double of the season, scoring a game-high 23 points and handing out a career-high 10 assists.
Sharp had a pair of eight-assist games while at Missouri State while his previous NSU high was seven assists. “Either one (scoring or passing) is fun,” Sharp said. “I was always a pass-first point guard. I definitely want to stick to that, but when I have to score, I’m definitely going to score. Scoring is always fun, but I love to feed my teammates.”
Sharp’s scoring was nearly evenly split – 12 points in the first half, 11 in the second – but it was his versatility that kept Lamar at bay. After the Cardinals cut the lead to eight less than six minutes into the second half, Sharp drained a baseline jumper to re-establish a 10-point lead. Two-and-a-half minutes later, Sharp found McDonald for a 3-pointer that doubled the NSU lead to six.
“DeMarcus Sharp is a prolific passer, but he’s a natural scorer,” Gipson said. “He’s an innate servant. What a special person.” Lamar’s Nate Calmese scored 13 of his team-leading 20 points in the second half, helping the Cardinals pull as close as three on a pair of occasions early in the final half.
Hampton finished with 19 and a team-leading eight rebounds for Northwestern State, which has won four straight at home following a loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the Dec. 31 Southland Conference opener.
The Demons return to action Thursday when they start their second three-game road trip of Southland Conference play with a 7:30 p.m. tipoff at Houston Christian.
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