HAMMOND, La. (NSU) - Northwestern State overcame a miserable start to win with toughness and willpower Saturday, as the visiting Lady Demon basketball team got a decisive basket by freshman Ravon Nero with 2.4 seconds left in double overtime and outlasted Southeastern Louisiana 60-56.
NSU overcame 11 percent shooting in the first half and trailed until the final eight minutes of regulation. Coach Jordan Dupuy’s team regrouped at halftime, and displayed greatly improved offensive structure and defensive tenacity to recover.
“We weren’t playing with desperation and a sense of urgency in the first half,” he said. “But credit our young ladies, we came together just in time.
“The toughness, the willpower that our team showed was tremendous. There was only one time coming out of a timeout we didn’t execute what was called. We were locked in,” he said. “I am very, very proud of how they competed, and how they played.”
The outcome kept NSU (10-17 overall, 5-11 in the Southland) alive in the fight for a Southland Tournament berth. The Lady Demons host Nicholls next Wednesday and Central Arkansas next Saturday to wrap up the regular season.
Nero’s basket snapped the game’s eighth tie. There were 10 lead changes, nine after halftime.
NSU polished off the triumph when Nautica Grant stole a Lady Lions inbound pass coming out of a timeout following Nero’s bucket. Grant was fouled and made two free throws in the final second, giving her 11 points.
Her fellow senior, Libba Gillam, poured in 15 points, all after halftime, including a 3-pointer with 1:05 to go in regulation that forged a 47-all stalemate which produced overtime.
The Lady Demons never trailed again. Southeastern (9-18, 4-12) pushed it to double overtime on a free throw with 2.6 seconds left by Charliee Dugas, who scored a game-high 24.
A jump hook by Victoria Miller moved Northwestern back on top for good with 3:33 showing in the second extra period. SLU came from 56-51 down to tie it with 13.4 seconds remaining on a pair of Ashailee Brailey free throws.
After Dupuy called timeout, the Lady Demons were precise in running the winning play.
“Libba set a great screen and Gabby (Bell) made a tremendous pass, and we got a great up and under from Ravon to score,” he said. “She was very calm with her move, her patented move to finish the go-ahead bucket.
“Then we finished with great defense and Nautica making the steal to lock it up.”
Gillam went 6-for-9 from the floor after halftime. Miller snatched 12 rebound and barely missed her second career double-double, scoring nine points. Nero scored nine points, adding six rebounds and four assists.
The victory gave NSU a season sweep over Southeastern and was its second win in three games.
“I’m very, very proud of this team, to do that on the road,” said Dupuy, whose squad picked up its second road win in league play. “Libba was rock solid in the second half and made play after play for us, with the basketball and as a screener.
“She did what a senior should do, lead by example. She was tough and so were the rest of our kids,” he said.
NSU limited SLU to 31 percent aim and outrebounded the Lady Lions 45-42. The Lady Demons drained 87 percent (20-23) of their free throws, a season best, when the season’s future hung in the balance.