Demons cruise past Dallas Christian to give the Cabrera era a winning debut

Playing the first game of the Rick Cabrera era, the Demons unleashed a stifling defense, rollin past visiting Dallas Christian, 101-54, inside Prather Coliseum.
Published: Nov. 6, 2023 at 9:49 PM CST
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NATCHITOCHES, La. (NSU) - After months of squaring off with one another, the newcomer-laden Northwestern State men’s basketball team was only too happy to see someone else.

Playing the first game of the Rick Cabrera era, the Demons unleashed a stifling defense that turned into an efficient offense as they rolled past visiting Dallas Christian, 101-54, inside Prather Coliseum.

“One thing I’ll say about having 14 new guys, these young men like each other,” Cabrera said. “They have their moments of adversity in practice and games, but they like each other. That was a concern of mine because they’re new. It’s my job to keep them liking each other and continuing to do that between the lines.”

The Demons’ chemistry Monday night was matched only by their depth.

Cabrera played 13 players, all of whom were on the floor for at least nine minutes. Northwestern State (1-0) saw 12 of those players – all newcomers – score, including four in double figures.

Jimel Lane led Northwestern State with 19 points while freshman Ryan Forrest (17), Duane Posey (12) and Chase Forte (11) also reached double figures.

Lane connected on all seven of his shots from the field, including a trio of first-half 3-pointers as NSU built a 43-point lead at the break en route to its highest-scoring season opener since beating Centenary 102-62 in 2018.

“It was fun,” said Lane, who added a game-high three blocks and had three of NSU’s 17 steals. “We practice against each other every day and make each other better. It was just good to play against someone else and be able to beat up on someone else.”

Lane was smiling widely after the game as the Demons were for much of the first half.

Northwestern State (1-0) opened the game by holding Dallas Christian scoreless for the first 5:30 minutes before Carlas Canady’s 3-pointer stopped a game-opening 19-0 run.

The Demons forced the Crusaders into an 0-for-11 start from the field, forcing three turnovers in that span. NSU did not let up defensively in the first half, limiting Dallas Christian to 11.8 percent shooting (4-for-34) from the field.

Those turnovers and a plus-eight rebounding advantage helped jump start an NSU offense that held a 31-3 advantage in fast-break points and put together several highlight-reel dunks and alley-oops in the opening 20 minutes.

Jamison Epps helped the Demons build that plus-eight advantage on the boards, grabbing nine of his game-high 12 rebounds in the first half.

“Coach really prides us on defense,” said Chase Forte, who had 11 points, a game-high six steals and four assists. “If we get stops, it’s really easy to score in transition. That’s what we showcased tonight.”

One of Forte’s assists came on an alley-oop to set up Forrest early in the second half. Forte jumped the passing lane and delivered a perfect backside lob to the trailing Forrest, who threw down the two-handed dunk.

Forrest, a freshman from Marion, Arkansas, finished 7-for-14 from the field in his first collegiate action.

“It was exciting,” Forrest said. “We beat up on each other every day. To see somebody else, it made us really happy. It’s just basketball. We were out there having fun.”

While Dallas Christian warmed up offensively in the second half, the Demons maintained their efficient offense.

After shooting 57.5 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, the Demons connected on 56.3 percent of their shots in the second half, including 18 of 23 from inside 3-point range.

“One and oh,” Cabrera said. “No matter who it is. I tell everybody, an ugly win is better than a pretty loss. The alternative is 0-1, and I could be in here angry, not wanting to talk. This is my dream job, and I’m glad I got that first one out of the way.”

The Demons return to action Thursday when they travel to Tulane for the first road game of the Cabrera era. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. in New Orleans.