LAKE CHARLES, La. (NSU) Extending his string of double-double performances to seven, the best active streak in the country, Ishmael Lane’s 17 points and 12 rebounds were pivotal Saturday in Northwestern State’s 74-72 win at McNeese.
Two more aspects of his game, passing and shot blocking, were decisive in the final 20 seconds. In a 72-all tie, catching the ball on the baseline, facing the basket, Lane attracted two defenders, and fired a cross-court feed to fellow senior Malik Metoyer, who drove for a twisting four-footer with 16.8 seconds to go.
It stood up as the game-winner after Lane blocked a McNeese shot with under five seconds left, deflected another, then snagged the rebound. The Cowboys forced a jump ball and had the arrow in their favor with 1.7 seconds left, so they were able to get one more try, a fallaway 3-pointer that was airballed in the face of John Norvel’s defensive pressure.
The Demons (9-15 overall, 4-7 in the Southland Conference) won for the third time in five league road games while sweeping the season series with their in-state rivals. The Cowboys (7-16, 3-7) lost their third in a row.
Metoyer scored a season-high 10 points. NSU’s other senior, DeAndre Love, had a 22-point first half as he bombed in five of six from 3-point range and added a second-half bucket for a career best and game-high 24 points.
The game-winning basket by Metoyer typified perhaps his team’s best 40 minutes of moving the basketball, said NSU coach Mike McConathy.
“Our ball movement was very good. In the first half we hit a lot of open jump shots, and in the second half we worked it inside and got more good shots,” he said after the Demons recorded a season best 21 assists – seven by sophomore guard C.J. Jones -- on their 27 baskets.
“Ish didn’t get an assist on the last basket, but it was typical of how we moved the ball effectively almost all day, very unselfishly,” said McConathy. “He found the open man, and the open man converted.”
For the third straight game, NSU hit at least half its shots. Coming in having made 53 percent combined in the last two games, the Demons were 27 of 54 overall, including 8 for 21 on 3-pointers.
While the seniors provided the scoring punch, seven other Northwestern players contributed points as the winners posted a 21-7 advantage in bench points. McNeese had four double-digit scorers, led by Roydell Brown, who had 21 points and eight rebounds but sat out the last 9:15 with an injury.
The Cowboys hit 8 of 16 from behind the 3-point arc by halftime, with that barrage helping open a 12-point lead nine minutes into the game. But the Demons used four Love treys, three in a row, in a 21-8 surge to close within 41-40 at the break, and never trailed again after a 9-2 burst opening the final period in an eventual 20-10 run.
McNeese drew even for the only time after halftime with 1:21 left on a pair of free throws for the 72-all tie. Good defense, capped by the game-ending series, made the difference as the Cowboys made just one of their last seven shots from the floor and were only 1 of 12 on 3-pointers in the second half.
For the eighth time in 11 Southland Conference games involving NSU, the outcome was settled in the last minute. It was the third one to be decided on the last possession.
“Really proud of how the guys continue to compete,” said McConathy. “We have done a great job of listening and accepting coaching. We’re playing so hard. We defended pretty well in the second half.
“We found a way to win on the road again. We had to have a bucket, we got one, and we had to have a stop, and we got that in the final seconds,” he said.
The Demons, whose only loss in their last three outings came in overtime to third-place New Orleans Wednesday night, go to Lamar Wednesday night. NSU is home next Saturday afternoon against rival Stephen F. Austin at Prather Coliseum.