NSU Demons head to Tulane in first road trip of Cabrera era

Braelon Bush and Northwestern State head to Tulane on Thursday.
Braelon Bush and Northwestern State head to Tulane on Thursday.(Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services)
Published: Nov. 8, 2023 at 3:52 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, La. - The newcomer-heavy Northwestern State men’s basketball team has spent plenty of time together since arriving on campus this summer.

The bonds the Demons formed in those summer workouts and throughout preseason camp will be tested on the road for the first time in a regular-season setting Thursday when Northwestern State travels to Tulane for a 6 p.m. tipoff inside Devlin Fieldhouse.

The game will air on ESPN+.

“Our guys are tough,” said first-year head coach Rick Cabrera, who takes a team on the road for the first time as a Division I head coach. “If you’re tough and together on the road, those Ts mesh together and give you a chance.”

Northwestern State (1-0) gave itself much more than a chance in Cabrera’s debut Monday night, racing past Dallas Christian, 101-54.

While the Demons were cruising to a season-opening win, Tulane (1-0) grabbed a 10-point win against Southland Conference member Nicholls, rallying back from a double-figure, first-half deficit.

“They are very talented and very well coached,” Cabrera said of the Green Wave. “I’ve followed (Tulane coach) Ron Hunter for a long time. He is a heck of a coach. He is a guy, as a young coach, I’ve always looked up to. He’s a guy who has done well wherever he’s been – whether it was at IUPUI, Georgia State or now at Tulane.”

With the Green Wave opening up against a Southland Conference member, the inclination for the Demons may be to use Thursday’s matchup as a bit of an early-season measuring stick within the conference.

That, however, is not the case – no matter the inherent human nature to do so.

“One thing I’ve tried to tell myself and the staff is to try to block out what you saw from Nicholls and focus on Tulane,” Cabrera said. “It was each team’s first game. The game of basketball changes in different ways. Nicholls played them well, and we expect to play them well. The measuring stick is how it’s going to flow throughout the course of the game.”

Northwestern State will face a Green Wave team that won its opener without preseason first-team All-American Athletic Conference selection Jaylen Forbes.

In Forbes’ place, Tulane saw three players score at least 20 points in the season-opening win against Nicholls while second-team preseason All-AAC pick Kevin Cross had an 18-point, 14-rebound double-double.

While no Demon player reached the 20-point mark in the win against Dallas Christian, Cabrera was able to dole out plenty of playing time as all 13 players who appeared in the game played at least nine minutes.

Now the rested Demons will take on a different challenge – one that entails as much adjustment off the court as on it.

“You’re out of your comfort zone,” Cabrera said of playing on the road. “Staying in nice hotels is nice, but it’s not your bed. It’s not your daily routine. We just have to keep stacking bricks and getting better every day.”