During its fast start to Southland Conference play, the Northwestern State women’s basketball team has relied on its defense.
It did again Wednesday night against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, turning in something that it has not accomplished in more than year.
For the first time since the 2014-15 season opener, NSU kept every opposing player out of double figures while watching three of its own players top the double-figure mark in a 60-43 victory at Prather Coliseum.
“The biggest thing was just being energetic,” fourth-year co-head coach Brooke Stoehr said. “They have a couple of really good shooters in (Shay) Weaver and (Brittany) Mbamalu. We had to be in the area on the catch with a hand up. I thought our perimeter moved well and our forwards moved well within the zone. When they do shoot 20-plus 3s, you know a lot of those rebounds are going to be long rebounds. That’s where your guards get involved, not just standing around watching, but getting themselves involved tracking down loose balls and long rebounds.”
Northwestern State (10-6, 4-1) won its second straight game and extended its home winning streak to nine straight games, doing so by following what has become a familiar pattern since the calendar flipped to 2016.
NSU won the battle on the boards, edging the Islanders (3-12, 0-4), 32-30, marking the fourth time in five conference games NSU has grabbed more rebounds than its opponent.
All four of those games have resulted in Northwestern State victories.
“It’s something we’ve really emphasized with our team,” Stoehr said. “We’ve got size. We need to block out, put a body on somebody and go pursue the ball. Rebounding is all about energy and effort. It’s a little bit of technique, but so much is about going and pursuing the basketball. Our team has done that really well since we got to conference play.”
Northwestern State bounced back from a 1-for-14 3-point effort in Saturday’s win at Incarnate Word with a blistering first-half shooting performance.
NSU connected on 5 of 8 first-half 3-pointers, building a 30-14 lead at the break, and continued its hot long-range shooting in the second half. NSU finished 9-for-17 from behind the arc with seniors Janelle Perez and Keisha Lee and junior Beatrice Attura knocking down a combined 9 of 15 long-range shots.
All three reached double figures with Perez tallying a game-high 20 points. Lee and Attura each finished with 13 points.
“I’m just going on confidence,” Perez said. “When our team plays well, it allows me to spot up and get open. I try to practice before practice, after practice. You’ve got to keep shooting. That’s what good shooters do – keep shooting and play with confidence. The in and out is helping us, too. We’re drawing attention in the post now. It opens up the guard play a lot.”
Lee, playing in her sixth game since returning from a preseason knee injury, delivered a season-high 13 points and five of NSU’s eight steals.
Along with Attura and Perez, Lee helped limit Mbamalu and Weaver to a combined 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting.
Lee and Perez combined for 10 rebounds as well.
“Coach tells us we have to be more aggressive (on defense) in a zone than in man,” Lee said. “We’ve got to give 100 percent effort the whole game to turn them over and get more possessions to score more points.”
Mbamalu led the Islanders with nine points as Texas A&M-Corpus Christi suffered its 10th straight loss. Tia Youngblood had eight points and a career-best five assists for NSU, which posted 17 assists against just nine turnovers.
Northwestern State returns to action Saturday at Lamar, starting a three-game Southland Conference road trip with a 2 p.m. tipoff in Beaumont, Texas. The game will air on the Demon Sports Network with streaming video available on ESPN3.