NATCHITOCHES -- Ishmael Lane had the third 20-point game of his senior season. Malik Metoyer posted a career high six assists, and seven rebounds. DeAndre Love and LaTerrance Reed combined for 25 points.
Those were all important contributions by frontline players in Northwestern State’s comeback 68-60 Southland Conference basketball win in Prather Coliseum Wednesday night over Incarnate Word, but five reserves made the difference, said Demons’ coach Mike McConathy.
Backups John Norvel, Vonte Ott, Jacob Guest and Brandon Hutton joined starting center Larry Owens forging a game-changing 10-0 run that erased a 47-40 deficit with 10:34 left. Guest’s 3-pointer, his only bucket, at the 6:21 mark gave NSU the lead for good as part of a 26-9 surge over nine minutes.
“They did a great job defensively, and also ran our open offense to perfection, moving the ball and cutting. We got the ball into Larry and he scored five straight points to get us going,” said McConathy.
“The other group came back in and sustained the flow. We had only one turnover in the second half, which was critical, and we because we moved the ball so much better, we shot good percentages (57 percent both from the floor and behind the 3-point arc),” he said. “We made free throws down the stretch and that was really, really big.”
That 17-point turnaround carried the Demons (11-17 overall, 6-9 in the SLC) into a four-way tie for seventh with three games remaining before the eight-team conference tournament March 12-15 in Katy, Texas.
“It was extremely critical,” said McConathy. “It came at a very timely period in our season. We had our lowest ebb a week ago tonight (a shocking 38-point loss at Houston Baptist, followed by an open date Saturday). Then we weren’t sharp in the first half, but we shook off the rust and played Demon basketball. Everybody contributed. Now we have to go forward and increase the value of what we did tonight.”
Owens (5), Hutton (5), Guest (3), Ott (2) and Norvel combined to score only 15 points but their defense and offensive flow turned the game around. UIW had led for all but a few seconds of the game’s first 30 minutes, but the Demons stymied them with oppressive man-to-man defense.
“I was proud for them. Brandon Hutton had 13 of the best minutes he’s had in his two years here. Vonte Ott had an incredible block in that stretch. Those five guys just worked and willed us into the lead,” said McConathy.
NSU overcame a titanic effort by injury-riddled UIW (6-22, 1-14), which dressed just eight players but made half their shots including 4 of 7 behind the arc while taking a 35-28 halftime advantage.
NSU preserved the hard-fought lead late by sinking 10 of 13 at the free throw line after halftime.
Lane’s 20 points topped the Demons, with Love getting 13 and Reed 12.
The Cardinals got 21 points by Antoine Smith, but were outscored 32-28 inside, 17-11 off turnovers and 10-6 after offensive rebounds.
Northwestern heads to play Southeastern Louisiana, idle Wednesday, Saturday afternoon at 4, then faces two other contenders for the last spots in the tournament bracket next week. The Demons go to Nicholls next Wednesday night and host Central Arkansas next Saturday, March 9 in the regular-season finale.