Third-quarter wake-up call spurs NSU to victory against Xavier (La.)

Janelle Perez - NSU Basketball

Janelle Perez directs traffic during NSU’s 73-57 win against Xavier (La.) on Tuesday night. Photo credit: Gary Hardamon/NSU Photographic Services

NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State women’s basketball team needed a little pickup early in the second half Tuesday night.

Fourth-year co-head coach Brooke Stoehr quickly called timeout and made sure her team understood her concerns.

Buoyed by that timely timeout, Northwestern State recaptured the momentum and carried it to a 73-57 victory over visiting Xavier University of Louisiana in its final non-conference game of the season.

“Sometimes you just have to get their attention,” Stoehr said. “I didn’t like our intensity and our energy to start the second half. We had some people on the floor who weren’t playing very hard. We challenged them in the timeout. The whole gym probably heard it, and they responded. We have a great group of kids, and we love this team, but sometimes they’re not mean enough. They need to be a little more aggressive on both ends of the floor.

“I’m very proud of how they responded.”

NSU (6-5) led by 12 at halftime before the visiting Gold Nuggets (9-5) rattled off the first six points of the second half, forcing a pair of Northwestern State turnovers in the process.

After Stoehr took the timeout at the 7:45 mark of the third quarter, NSU responded with an 13-2 run across the next 6:27 to take firm control of the game.

Senior Janelle Perez and freshman Cheyenne Brown ignited the run, combining for 10 of NSU’s 13 points in that stretch.

Perez finished with a game-high 22 points and team bests in rebounds (7) and assists (4) as Northwestern State won its season-high third straight game.

Brown added 13 points as NSU put four players in double figures. Shahd Abboud (12) and Beatrice Attura (10) rounded out NSU’s double-figure scoring crew.

Brown tallied six of her points during the game-turning run and now has scored in double figures in three of the first four home games she has played in this season.

Perez, meanwhile, typified Northwestern State’s offensive efficiency Tuesday night, hitting 7 of 10 shots and knocking down all seven of her free throw attempts. Her 22 points made Perez the thrd NSU player to crack 20 points in a game this season, joining Abboud and Attura.

“It just comes down to playing basketball,” Perez said. “We’ve all played since we were younger. Being able to read each other and being able to execute the plays and being able to read the defense and taking what they give us is pretty awesome. Getting that going allows us to open up for other teammates and get them open and work with that.”

Xavier’s Donyeah Mayfield shook off an 0-for-8 first-half shooting performance to score all 13 of her team-high points in the second half, but Xavier was never fully able to recover from a sluggish 3-for-25 shooting start.

NSU shot the ball well throughout, hitting a season-high 53.5 percent of its shots.

“It’s always hard coming off a layoff,” said Stoehr, whose team last played 10 days ago. “You’re used to being in the gym every day, and you take a break from games and you wonder how much rust is going to be on. I thought our execution for the most part was really good. We got some good action off our pick and roll. We got in the paint and created. We were able, when the post helped up defensively, to finish some shots and get to the free-throw line. We got to the line 34 times. We were aggressive. That’s what you want.”

Northwestern State returns to play Saturday when it opens Southland Conference play by hosting Houston Baptist at 1 p.m. in a rematch of the 2015 Southland Conference Tournament championship game. That game is the opener of an SLC doubleheader that will feature the Houston Baptist-Northwestern State men’s game at 3 p.m. in Prather Coliseum.