Demons head up I 49 to Centenary for unique visit Tuesday at 6

MensBasketball - McConathy

With thousands of alumni and students in or near Shreveport-Bossier City, Northwestern State basketball coach Mike McConathy believes Tuesday night’s visit to Division III Centenary, one of NSU’s oldest rivals, makes perfect sense.

Tipoff between the Demons (2-7) and Gentlemen (7-3) is 6 p.m. at the Gold Dome on Centenary’s campus. Both teams are coming off wins before Christmas, with NSU dominating Missouri Valley 105-79 Dec. 19 and Centenary beating previously unbeaten UT Dallas 66-57 a day later at the Gold Dome.

It’s the first of three games in a week for NSU, which will open Southland Conference season at home with a pair of doubleheaders, Saturday afternoon against Houston Baptist and next Monday night against Sam Houston State.

Northwestern State and Centenary have nearly a century of history on the basketball court, last meeting in a home-and-home series early in the 2010-11 season when the Demons won 83-70 in Shreveport and 82-55 in Natchitoches. The Gentlemen left Division I athletics after that season and the teams haven’t played since, until Tuesday night.

The contest brings a few Demons back home. McConathy grew up in neighboring Bossier City and was a prep All-American at Airline High School. NSU sophomore guard Devonte Hall was an All-State star at Bossier High. Junior walk-on guard Will Poole played at Shreveport’s Byrd High, less than a mile from Centenary.

It was also drawn up to give senior point guard Jalan West a homecoming. The Bossier City native had his season ended in the opening game by a knee injury requiring surgery earlier this month.

“We look for the right opportunities to come to Shreveport-Bossier. It’s part of the heartbeat of Northwestern State University. We have one of the nation’s best nursing schools on Line Avenue not far from the Gold Dome. We have thousands of alumni and current students here and near here,” said McConathy. “We’re very appreciative to coach Adam Walsh and Centenary for being able to play this game, which we hoped would be a special hometown appearance for Jalan. Still our team is very excited about the chance to play up there and against an extremely well-coached, capable, opponent.”

NSU features one of the most explosive players in college basketball, and a product of nearby DeSoto Parish, in junior swingman Zeek Woodley. He is eighth in NCAA Division I’s scoring ranks (23.7 points per game) and 11th in free throw aim (91.7 percent), leading a squad that is the third most-accurate in the nation from the line at 79.7 percent.

Another Bossier High School product, sophomore guard Devonte Hall, has stepped in for West and been very productive. He stands 40th nationally with a 5.7 assists average and ranks 65th in assist-turnover ratio at a plus 2.68.

Centenary has five players scoring in double figures, led by Travion Kirkendoll with a 22.1 average. The Gents are scoring 78.8 points per game while the Demons average 76.8.

NSU is getting 11.7 points per game from 6-8 freshman center Ishmael Lane and 10.3 by junior guard Sabri Thompson.

The game will be broadcast on  The Demons’ veteran play by play announcer is Patrick Netherton, who was once sports information director at Centenary and still lives in Shreveport.