Slow start hampers Lady Demons at SHSU

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HUNTSVILLE, TX -- Another slow start on the road was too much for the Northwestern State women’s basketball team to overcome.

The Lady Demons endured their toughest shooting night of the season and saw Lydia Baxter bull her way into a career night as Sam Houston State cruised to a 66-55 Southland Conference victory at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum on Wednesday night.

Baxter tallied 16 points and grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds as the Bearkats (9-7, 4-2) handed Northwestern State (6-11, 1-5) its fourth straight loss.

“I saw a lack of toughness,” third-year head coach Jordan Dupuy said. “We told them before the game the hardest-playing, toughest team would win tonight. We didn’t block out. We didn’t finish plays. We had 13 missed layups, which is 26 points off the table. Throw in another 12 missed free throws, and you’re looking at 38 points that should have been ours. You’re not going to make every layup, but you shouldn’t miss 13.”

Behind Baxter’s big night on the boards, Sam Houston State outrebounded the Lady Demons by 15 and turned their 20 offensive rebounds into 18 second-chance points.

Baxter’s 16 points led a trio of Bearkats in double figures as Jeniffer Oramas (13) and Ashley Leggett (12) both joined her in double figures. Sam Houston State shot just 36.7 percent from the field, but that was 13 percent higher than Northwestern State.

The Lady Demons hit just 14 of 59 shots from the field, finishing with 23.7 percent shooting aim. The offensive struggles were apparent early as Northwestern State shot 3 for 15 from the field in the first quarter, falling behind by as many as 13 in the opening stanza.

Northwestern State’s offensive struggles were typified by a nearly 11-minute stretch that spanned the third and fourth quarters. After Libba Gilliam’s layup with 4:18 to play in the third quarter, the Lady Demons did not hit another field goal until RaVon Nero connected on a left-corner 3 with 3:14 to play in the game.

In that time, Sam Houston State built its largest lead of the game – 24 points. Nero’s 3-pointer started a 14-1 game-ending run for the Lady Demons.

Nero paced Northwestern State with 25 points, tying her career high. A 5-foot-11 freshman from Edmond, Oklahoma, Nero established career highs in free throws (13) and free throw attempts (14) while tying a career high with a pair of 3-pointers.

Nero scored the first five points of the run and assisted on another, finding Gilliam (10 points) for a layup, before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

“She can make (free throws),” Dupuy said of Nero, who entered the game shooting 59.5 percent from the line. “Her focus has to be there. It’s a little different with the speed we have to play at, being able to step up and make them when you’re tired. She’s very capable.

“You look at her having 25 points in 19 minutes. The thing she has to do is play without fouling, because we need her on the floor for more than 19 minutes. If she plays another five or six minutes, she’s going to get us another six to eight points.”

The Lady Demons return to action Saturday when they host Southeastern Louisiana in the opening game of a doubleheader with the NSU men’s team. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. inside Prather Coliseum.