NATCHITOCHES -- Northwestern State was stat-for-stat in all but one category with league-leading Sam Houston State Wednesday night, but the only unbeaten team in Southland Conference basketball stayed that way with a striking 33-point advantage on 3-pointers.
The Demons somehow partially offset the distance disadvantage, but weren’t able to mount a threat after falling behind by 11 at halftime, and the Bearkats rode home 78-64 winners.
Sam Houston (11-8 overall, 6-0 in the Southland) nailed 14 of 29 from behind the arc. Meanwhile, the Demons (7-11, 2-4) couldn’t connect on their first 18 and finished just 3 of 28 on 3-pointers.
That overshadowed a monster performance by NSU senior postman Ishmael Lane, who scored 19 points and snatched a career-best 19 rebounds, while blocking five shots. He made 8 of 13 shots, including one of his two 3-point tries, and did damage on the offensive glass with 10 rebounds of Demon misses.
“Ishmael Lane didn’t leave anything at home,” said 20th-year NSU head coach Mike McConathy. “He competed. He didn’t get many breaks, but he tried to make breaks for himself and his team. Ish had a huge night.”
So did three Bearkats whose long-range aim was decisive. RJ Smith (4-4 behind the arc, 16 points), Marcus Harris (4-6, 12 points) and Cameron Delaney (3-6, 15 points) made 11 of the visitors’ 14 treys, six more than they average. SHSU came in with a 34 percent rate on 3-pointers but drained 48 percent, including 56 percent to continually beat back every rally attempt by NSU in the second half.
“We did battle. We were even in basically every category except 3-pointers and that was a huge difference,” said McConathy. “We got next-to-nothing on 3-pointers, and Sam Houston made every other one they took. They had an exceptional night.
“They are a very confident team, and when they get their mojo going, they are really, really good. They execute their stuff, they’re so physical and so good defensively.”
The Bearkats nailed back-to-back treys to open a 17-10 lead. The Demons pushed back with a three-point play by 12-point scorer LaTerrance Reed, but Sam Houston replied with a seven-point burst and the Demons never got closer than nine points afterward.
Each of the five times NSU drew inside a 10-point deficit, the visitors immediately answered for a double-digit margin. Sam Houston led 41-30 at halftime and never let it get closer in the final 20 minutes.
“Any time we cut the lead to nine points, they hit a 3-pointer or got a basket. We were not in synch defensively at those crucial times and couldn’t knock down their lead,” said McConathy.
The Demons picked up 11 points from DeAndre Love, back after a wrist injury benched him for last Saturday’s visit to Abilene Christian. NSU’s normally productive bench contributed only 10 points.
“We kept fighting. We just couldn’t score in bunches and a lot of the credit for that goes to how well they play defense,” said McConathy. “Of course, a lot of the reason for that also goes to how badly we shot 3-pointers.”
The Demons, who were 20 percentage points off their normal 3-point aim, play again at home Saturday afternoon against Southeastern Louisiana.