As the Southland Conference women’s basketball season nears its halfway point, Northwestern State coach Jordan Dupuy and his team are walking a fine line.
The Lady Demons are in a tie for ninth place, one game behind the cut line for the eight-team conference tournament in March. With eight of their final 11 games against teams under .500 in conference play, the Lady Demons could be tempted to look ahead toward a possible trip to the Merrell Center in Katy, Texas.
However, as Northwestern State prepares to host Southland foe New Orleans at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dupuy said he wants his team’s focus squarely on the immediate future, not on the next six weeks.
“It’s something you have to look at the big picture, but you have to strictly concentrate on what’s in front of you,” he said. “Enjoy the win (Saturday against Southeastern Louisiana), but they’ve already been back in the weight room. We have to carry that onto the practice floor. We’ll take it one step at a time, one game at a time and let the conference schedule play out the way it needs to. Hopefully it shakes out to where we’re playing in Katy.”
The Lady Demons (7-11, 2-5) snapped a four-game losing streak with a 58-47 win against Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday. The 47 points were the fewest allowed by Northwestern State since holding New Orleans to that same number on Jan. 30, 2018.
In that game, NSU held All-Southland guard Randi Brown to two points to earn a season split of the series with the Privateers. Coming off their best defensive performance of the conference season, the Lady Demons will face a UNO (5-12, 1-7) team that is trying to find its footing without Brown, who averaged 22 points per game as a senior.
“When you take a player like Randi Brown out of the mix, they’re still finding their identity on offense,” Dupuy said. “She could get them a bucket, get them a shot, create. They’re missing that player, but (coach) Keeshawn (Davenport) will have them ready to play. They’re going to defend, mix it up, play multiple defenses in the half court. Once they get their defense going, they’re better on the offensive end.”
Northwestern State also mixed up its defense against Southeastern Louisiana, helping lead to a turnaround on that end of the floor against the Lady Lions.
“We changed some things up as far as personnel,” Dupuy said. “We had both our point guards (Sami Thomas and Gabby Bell) in at the same time, which gave us more stability from a ball-handling and decision-making standpoint. They were very good at the front of our press, kept them contained.”
While the Lady Demons’ defense contained Southeastern Louisiana, freshman RaVon Nero continued to spark the Northwestern State offense.
Nero led the Lady Demons in scoring for the second straight game – and sixth time this season – and had 12 of her 16 points in the second half as Northwestern State did something it had not done previously this season.
By erasing a four-point Southeastern Louisiana lead entering the fourth quarter, the Lady Demons picked up their first win this season in a game they trailed entering the final 10 minutes.
In order to pick up their first back-to-back conference wins since Feb. 4-9, 2017, Dupuy said the focus must remain on the defensive end.
“We have to keep the same defensive intensity,” he said. “You can throw records out when you’re in conference. Which team is the most ready to play, the toughest team on the court, will win. We have to make sure our preparation is what it needs to be.”
Wednesday’s game can be heard on 97.5 FM KDBH in Natchitoches and via streaming audio at www.NSUDemons.com/watch. Audio and video streams of the game can be found at www.NSUDemons.com and through the new Northwestern State Athletics mobile app, which is available for download through the Apple Store or Google Play. Tony Taglavore, in his 11th season, will handle the play-by-play call of the game.
Photo Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services