HAMMOND, La (NSU) - Just after Northwestern State pulled ahead Saturday, Southeastern Louisiana began pulling away.
Fueling their 69-55 Southland Conference basketball victory, the Lions used superior defense and took advantage of NSU turnovers while on a game-changing 28-9 run. It started after NSU roared out of halftime, erasing the game’s biggest deficit to that point, a 34-29 SLU advantage, with a 7-1 burst.
Ishmael Lane’s stuff and free throw with 17:59 pushed the Demons up 36-35. The Lions didn’t trail again after Brandon Gonzales hit a jumper 37 seconds later.
That started a 10-3 SLU surge followed quickly by a burst of six unanswered points from the home team, which honored five seniors in pregame ceremonies. That pushed the Lions’ advantage into double figures for the first time with 9:52 remaining, 51-41. The extended run ballooned their spread to 18, 63-45, with 4:29 to go.
“We turned the ball over repeatedly and they capitalized like a good, veteran team does,” said Demons’ 20th-year coach Mike McConathy. “They got very efficient and executed unbelievably well.
“It was just one of those old country butt whipping, is all,” he said. “We couldn’t score, and they were nailing them.”
NSU slipped to 6-10 in the Southland, 11-18 overall, and has games next week at Nicholls and against Central Arkansas that will settle its chances of making the eight-team Southland Tournament March 13-16.
“Now we’ve got to depend on other outcomes, as well as winning our games,” said McConathy. “We’ve got to be better next week.”
The Lions (15-14, 11-5) won for the 11th time in 13 games. Moses Greenwood’s 22 points led the way while Gonzales’ 14 topped three more players in double figures.
NSU picked up 14 points, all in the first half, from LaTerrance Reed. Lane scored 11, blocked four shots and grabbed five rebounds.
“We got doubled up on rebounds in the second half,” said McConathy, whose team was beaten on the boards 31-23. “None of our guys did well on the boards.”
The Demons shot 48 percent overall and hit 7 of 13 on 3-pointers, but committed 20 turnovers to just 12 by the Lions.
“If you’d have told me we’d shoot as well overall and on 3s, I’d like our chances, but we just turned the ball over so often and they took advantage,” said McConathy.
“We didn’t convert on transition opportunities in the first half nearly as much as we should have. We didn’t get nearly as many of those in the second half. We didn’t make enough of those that came our way early.”
With the state semifinalist basketball team from his alma mater (Port Allen High) watching, Lane cracked NSU’s career scoring top 10 (1,439 points) and moved into third on the Demons’ all-time blocked shots list (163). He already stood eighth in career rebounding (817).
“His maturity and intelligence has helped him constantly improve. To be in the career top 10 in scoring, rebounding and blocks is an awesome accomplishment and indicates he is one of our all-time great players,” said McConathy. “He’s a better person than he is a basketball player, and he’s a tremendous basketball player.”