Considering the 20 missed 3-pointers by the Northwestern State basketball team Friday night, it was especially ironic that Ishmael Lane’s trey was the dagger for the Demons in a 70-66 overtime victory over visiting Alabama A&M.
The last trio of Lane’s team-best 18 points came with nine seconds left, from the left wing off an assist from junior walk-on John Norvel. That came following an offensive rebound by senior DeAndre Love with 37 ticks remaining, extending a precarious possession beginning with 59 seconds to go after an overthrown pass by the Bulldogs.
Lane’s 3-pointer pushed NSU (2-4) up 68-63. The Bulldogs (0-5) answered on a 3-pointer by 24-point scorer Jalen Reeder with 2.1 seconds left, but after a timeout, the visitors couldn’t stop Lane’s inbounds pass to LaTerrance Reed, who was fouled and sank two clinching free throws with 1.1 remaining.
The Demons led only briefly, and not for very long, just 6:22 of the 45 minutes. But they never trailed in overtime, after Lane nailed a 16-footer 48 seconds into the extra period, after overcoming a deficit as big as 10 points in regulation.
Northwestern’s miserable first-half shooting (31 percent overall, including 2 of 15 on 3-pointers) was problematic. Norvel provided a spark in the final five seconds with a 26-foot 3-pointer to close the Demons within 31-26.
While NSU never found its range from distance afterward, missing six more 3-pointers before Lane’s OT shot, the Demons did improve inside the arc.
After making six of its first seven, starting with a pair of twisting layups by sophomore point guard C.J. Jones, Northwestern snatched its first edge since the opening minute with a 41-40 advantage on two Reed free throws with 15:06 showing.
But Alabama A&M quickly regained the upper hand, although never by more than 55-50 with 5:49 left. After Vonte Ott’s 15-footer eight seconds later, the spread was never bigger than three until the final seconds of overtime.
Neither team scored a bucket in the final 3:25 of regulation. Lane sank a free throw with 33 seconds to go for a 61-all tie, but missed a go-ahead try.
The Bulldogs had a pair of turnovers in the last minute and never got off a shot, and a drive by Jones into traffic was fruitless just before the buzzer.
In OT, a layup by Love with 1:27 left broke the last of the game’s eight ties. The Demons’ defense forced the 22nd Bulldogs turnover, then Love’s offensive rebound set the stage for Lane’s decisive 3-pointer.
“We went from our three-quarters-court press to man-to-man, and they had three big turnovers,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy. “That turned the game around.”
Norvel joined Lane in double digits for NSU with 12 points, adding a pair of the Demons’ 10 steals.
Sparked by the hot start after halftime, Northwestern sank 16 of its last 33 shots to weather a 47-34 rebounding disadvantage. The Demons, hitting 35 percent of their 3-pointers through their first five games, sank just 4 of 24 (17 percent).
“We just didn’t make shots,” said McConathy. “We had shots, open shots, and didn’t make them. It was a tough, tough matchup. We didn’t get the ball inside like we needed to do.
“But Alabama A&M is a good team, really talented, they execute and run their stuff well. It’s hard to guard them, and they attacked the offensive boards. They’ve just played some good teams so far,” he said.
The contest wrapped up both teams’ involvement with the Men Against Breast Cancer Cougar Cup multi-team event. Each squad dropped contests at BYU, Rice and Houston.
The Bulldogs got 16 points and seven rebounds by Andre Kennedy but was outscored 24-12 on points off turnovers and 24-10 in bench points. All five Alabama A&M starters played at least 30 minutes, while only two Demons did, with seven more getting at least 10.
“I think our waves had a lot to do with it. We kept changing people, and (Alabama A&M) got a little tired, and that had a huge impact,” said McConathy. “In the last 7-8 minutes of regulation we went with some strange combinations trying to figure who could guard and produce. John Norvel, Brandon Hutton, and Vonte Ott all came up big in that stretch and DeAndre Love made two huge plays with a basket and an offensive rebound in that last minute of OT.”
NSU will play back-to-back home games for the first time on Tuesday when UL Monroe visits Prather Coliseum for a 6:30 contest.
Chris Reich – NSU Photographic Services