NSU Demons fall to hot-shooting Lumberjacks

Highlights from the college basketball matchup between Stephen F. Austin and NSU on November 13, 2023.
Published: Nov. 13, 2023 at 10:22 PM CST
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NATCHITOCHES, La. (NSU) - Visiting Stephen F. Austin started both halves quickly Monday night, making things tough on the Northwestern State men’s basketball team.

The Lumberjacks used that momentum and an efficient offense throughout to make life tough on the Demons’ offense, handing NSU a 96-70 defeat inside Prather Coliseum.

“They have some big dudes down there,” first-year head coach Rick Cabrera said. “They scored 52 points in the paint. That’s a lot of points. That’s a credit to them and a discredit to our defense. They want to pound the ball in the paint. They made nine 3s. That wasn’t something coming into tonight that was their strength, but they made shots and won a good game on the road.”

Once Northwestern State (1-2) cut an early SFA lead to 9-5, the Lumberjacks (2-1) responded with a 14-0 run to build an 18-point lead less than 10 minutes into the game.

Despite the early deficit, the Demons awakened late in the first half behind the play of Cliff Davis, who made his Prather Coliseum debut after missing NSU’s Nov. 6 win against Dallas Christian.

Davis had 14 of his game-high 23 points in the first half, including a pair of technical free throws as part of a three-point NSU trip that pulled the Demons within 10 with 25 seconds to play in the first half.

Those free throws – along with one from JT Warren – closed out a 10-3 run that sliced the lead to 10 before Clayton Southwick’s putback at the first-half horn gave SFA a 12-point halftime advantage.

“In the timeouts, we’re ultra-positive with these guys when we’re down,” Cabrera said. “There’s no point in beating them down and making them feel worse than they are. We uplift them. They kept fighting. We just couldn’t sustain it for 40 minutes.”

The Lumberjacks did sustain their offense for most of the 40 minutes.

After shooting 65.4 percent from the field in the first half, SFA dipped slightly to 61.3 percent in the final 20 minutes. The Lumberjacks shot 9-for-20 (45 percent) from 3-point range after sinking a combined 12 3s in their first two games of the season.

Continuing that theme, the Lumberjacks saw production from up and down their lineup, including a trio of players – Matt Hayman, Jalil Beaubrun and Frank Staine – who scored more points Monday than they had in the first two games combined.

That offset a strong NSU defensive performance against SFA’s leading scorer, Latrell Jossell, who managed only one point after averaging 13 in the first two games.

In addition to Davis’ career-high 23 points, Jamison Epps scored a career-best 11 points while grabbing 10 rebounds to produce his first double-double in an NSU uniform. The 10 rebounds made Epps the first Demon to record double-figure rebounds in three straight games since Kendal Coleman did so from Feb. 17-24, 2022.

Ryan Forrest added 10 for the Demons – his third double-figure scoring game in as many outings – but NSU was unable to overcome SFA’s 52-26 advantage in the paint and the Lumberjacks’ 48-33 edge in bench points.

“You’ve got to watch film,” Cabrera said. “You’ve got to get better. Both teams have a similar style of play of denying the wings, passing lanes. What I told them is we can learn from this game. We can learn from them. We’re going to continue to build. We’re going to be a scary team very soon. I’m not panicking at all.”

The Demons return to action Thursday when they open play in the First Coast Classic in Jacksonville, Florida. NSU faces Maine at 3 p.m. in its first game at the three-day event.