Former Northwestern State forward Ishmael Lane had one of his most impressive performances of this past season as the Demons hung around at SMU in an 11-point loss.
NSU (2-4) will visit the Mustangs (7-0) for the third straight season Tuesday in a 7 p.m. contest – this time without Lane.
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The Demons have employed a post-by-committee tactic this season to help replace Lane, a Southland Conference first-teamer who was named the Defensive Player of the Year.
One key piece of that puzzle, junior transfer Jamaure Gregg, had his most complete game of the season this past week with 15 points on 7-of-7 shooting and six rebounds.
Gregg, a 6-foot-7 forward who even looks like Lane as both sport goggles, has reached double figures in two of his last four games and had his highest rebounding outputs in those contests.
“I feel more comfortable (after six games), and I’m adjusting to the Division I game,” said Gregg, who shot nearly 71 percent from the field as a sophomore at Cochise College (Ariz.). “The speed and aggression of the game are a little different, and I’m learning what to do and what not to do.
“Rebounding and making shots will be key against SMU. It’s a miss or make game. You miss shots, you lose. You make shots, you win.”
Gregg is shooting 59 percent from the floor this season, including flashing a healthy mid-range game from both elbows. He’s increased his production to seven points and four rebounds per game with eight blocks.
NSU coach Mike McConathy said Gregg is a prime example of using his strengths to impact the game.
“He developed a lot in junior college, and he understood what he could do and what he doesn’t need to do,” McConathy said. “When each of us figures out who we are and do the things we can do, we can be successful, and I’m excited about that.
“Jamaure brings a component of athleticism with a larger body that we haven’t had. I’m hopeful for better things to come.”
Gregg and junior Chudier Bile (nine rebounds) were part of a Demon front line that helped NSU outrebound ULM 42-36, despite the Warhawks having six players standing at least 6-foot-8.
NSU has been outrebounded just twice in six games this season, including matching Texas A&M in an area that the Demons haven’t typically been successful.
Bile is the second-leading rebounder in the Southland Conference at 9.3 per game, and his athleticism at 6-foot-6 has allowed him to maneuver around larger opponents and grab rebounds. With 11 points per game, Bile leads the team.
“(Bile) has been our most consistent rebounder, and he’s elusive and slick when he goes and gets the ball,” McConathy said. “We had second-chance points in the second half against ULM, and he has the skill to put it back it up on the offensive glass.
“Guards rebounding help our total numbers, and (sophomore Brian White) had five against ULM, which is a big number.”
White and Gregg went on a 14-4 run at ULM to cut the Warhawks lead to five in an eventual eight-point loss.
“We never give up at the end of games – that’s where we play our hardest,” said Gregg, who also contributed 11 points and eight rebounds against Rice. “If we can do that from the beginning, we’d be tremendous.
“We still have stuff to work on, but we’ll get there. Being more comfortable with the guys around you allows you to play harder. We’re a lot more comfortable with each other than we were the first couple weeks of the season.”
The Demons are mixing in eight newcomers with seven returners, and 12 players are averaging double-digit minutes this season.
McConathy said the SMU matchup will be similar to ULM in that the Mustangs are tough defensively (61 points allowed per game) with a precisely functioning offense.
“They are very well coached, and I like playing them because their basketball is an art form,” McConathy said. “They pass and cut and move, it’s free flowing.
“It’s kind of like ULM’s motion offense in that they move the ball and get good shots. We’ll see how the game progresses, and their size and strength will be a challenge.”
McConathy and the staff will be wearing green ties, lapel pins and wristbands as part of a Fight For Literacy Game hosted by SMU in partnership with Coaching For Literacy.
For every $10 donated, Coaching For Literacy will provide two books to local kids in the Dallas area. To learn more, text “MUSTANGS4LIT” to 71-777.
Photo Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services