Slow first half stymies NSU

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HOUSTON, TX -- After five straight games with offensive efficiency, Northwestern State struggled mightily in the first half Wednesday night at Houston Baptist.

Then the wheels really came off, and the Demons were more than doubled up in the second half as the Huskies erupted for a stunning 92-54 blowout in a key late-season Southland Conference basketball matchup.

NSU (10-17 overall, 5-9 in the Southland) had shot a fraction under 50 percent and averaged 77 points in its last five games, but was a paltry 34 percent from the floor and just 3 of 17 on 3-pointers after making 13 of 26 in last Saturday’s 15-point win over rival Stephen F. Austin.

Most compelling, Houston Baptist (10-14, 6-7) made the most of NSU’s 18 turnovers, outscoring the Demons 30-6 in points off turnovers. A 38-29 halftime lead expanded rapidly afterward as HBU sank 54 percent of its shots in the final 20 minutes, outscoring NSU 54-25.

The Huskies opened the second half with a 12-2 burst in the first three minutes, then pushed the margin over 20 with 14 minutes to go in a run that expanded to 32-14 over 12 minutes.

“You see this in the NBA, when a team has been playing really well, and then just inexplicably hits the wall and gets blown out. This isn’t the NBA by a long shot, but for some reason, we were a shell of the team we’ve been lately, really in any of our conference games,” said 20th-season Demons’ coach Mike McConathy.

“This was a swing game in the conference standings, and we got swung on. HBU hit us in the mouth early, and got the upper hand. They put the hammer down in the second half and we were lost sheep.”

Ishmael Lane had his ninth double-double in the last 10 games with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and fellow senior Malik Metoyer added 10 points. They shot a combined 12 of 19, but the rest of the Demons were just 11 of 48.

The Huskies had five players in double figures, four with 10 points and led by 13 from Braxton Bonds. HBU held a 52-36 rebounding advantage.

“HBU played with great desire, and was really locked in. We didn’t play with a sense of urgency, which is something we’ve had in every other conference game,” said McConathy.

“This was the poorest effort by one of our teams since my first season here, and that covers a lot of ground.

“Everything we did, we did a step slow,” he said. “I’m extremely disappointed. I love my players but I am just sick about how we played tonight. It’s not who we’ve been. Now we’ll find out who we are by the way we respond.”

The Demons have an open date Saturday, then begin the closing four-game stretch in the conference race next Wednesday night at home against Incarnate Word.