HOUSTON, TX -- For the second straight game, Northwestern State produced quality minutes on the road, but couldn’t sustain it for nearly the full 40 minutes, seeing a four-point deficit late in the first half rapidly expand in the second period as Houston ran away for an 82-55 college basketball triumph Monday night.
NSU trailed 28-24 in the final five minutes of the first period, but Houston closed the half on an 11-4 burst in the last 4:43 to open its biggest advantage to that point, 39-28. The Demons scored the second half’s first bucket, then the Cougars ran off 14 straight over 4:30 to take command 53-30. NSU never got closer than 19 afterward.
The Demons dipped to 1-4, all the losses in a row on the road. They’ll be home for two straight games, Friday night against Alabama A&M to wrap up the Men Against Breast Cancer Cougar Cup multi-team event, and next Tuesday night when old rival UL Monroe visits Prather Coliseum.
Houston, 3-0, got a game-high 16 points by Armoni Brooks, with Corey Davis Jr., Chris Harris Jr., and Landon Goesling each scoring 13.
Nobody broke into double digits for NSU, which was led by eight points from junior transfer John Norvel, and seven from senior Ishmael Lane and senior guard DeAndre Love.
Entering the contest shooting 69 percent on free throws and 38 percent on 3-pointers, the Demons were subpar at the line (8-15) and behind the arc (7-24, 29 percent, including 2-10 in the first half).
A glaring stat to 20th-year Demons coach Mike McConathy was NSU’s assist total of just six, compared to 18 for Houston.
“I don’t think our guard play is getting us in position to make good offensive plays. We had several opportunities to get the ball inside early after halftime and we didn’t execute,” he said. “But we also didn’t produce to an effective level in the interior when we got chances all night long. Yes, Houston has good bigs, but we weren’t nearly as good as we needed to be.”
Steals showed another big deficiency. Houston outscored the visitors 21-2 on points after turnovers, with the Cougars getting nine steals and benefiting from 15 NSU turnovers while they gave it up only five times, just two on Demon steals.
NSU outrebounded UH 22-18 in the first half but was outboarded 23-12 afterward.
McConathy, who had nearly his full roster available except for prized freshman point guard Brian White (ankle) for the first time, said the Demons struggled with cohesiveness, especially after halftime.
“We have an identity problem. We don’t yet know who we are. I don’t see an effort problem. We have to play hard through this and find our roles, our combinations that fit best.
“This is one of the best teams we’re going to see and we were toe-to-toe with them for the better part of the first half. We just need to extend that level of play,” he said.