NSU Men’s Basketball: Northwestern State aiming to keep offensive potency at UIW

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – “I hope we didn’t use it all up in one game.”

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That’s the sentiment NSU coach Mike McConathy has as his Demons prepare for a trip to Incarnate Word on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

NSU (5-8, 2-2 Southland Conference) showcased its most impressive offensive display in an SLC game since 2015 when the Demons shot 60 percent from the floor and beat Houston Baptist, 106-79, on Sunday.

The Demons flashed their offensive potential at times in the first half of the season, but it all came together Sunday as sophomore Trenton Massner led five players in double figures with a career-high 20 points.

NSU is one of the most balanced offensive teams in the nation as two of its top four leading scorers this season (Chudier Bile and Brian White) weren’t among the five double-digit scorers against HBU.

“It’s a great offensive performance, and we made shots that we hadn’t been making,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy, who recorded his 300th win as a Demon and added to his Louisiana collegiate career record of 652 wins. “(Owens) scored with two seconds left on the shot clock in which the ball bounced a couple of times, and (Jones) and John Norvel made 3-pointers against the clock,

“It’s not that we can’t make those shots, we just haven’t been. We had great ball movement, particularly in the first half, and we have to carry that consistently through the entire game.”

Junior Jairus Roberson contributed a career-high 19 points, freshman Jovan Zelenbaba had a career-high eight points and juniors Larry Owens and C.J. Jones each had season highs of 14 and eight points respectively.

Freshman Nikos Chougkaz and junior Jamaure Gregg had two of their better efforts with 12 and 14 points, respectively.

Seven different Demons average at least six points per game led by Bile (12) and Roberson (10).

“It’s great to be able to score like that even without (Bile and White) playing as many minutes as they are used to,” McConathy said. “(Jones) is a very good player, and it’s great to see him have positive body language because he felt good about his contribution.

“C.J. worked extra after practice this week, and that’s when guys get better. We have guys who are paying attention in film sessions, even if it’s not what they want to hear, and applying that in practice.”

Massner has set his personal career highs in each of the last three games as he’s solidified his role in the starting lineup.

The Wapello, Iowa, native is shooting 14-of-20 in those three games as NSU has made at least 45 percent of its shots in four of the last five games.

“We’re as confident as we’ve been all year after (Sunday), which was our best all-around game,” Massner said. “We had a tough loss at (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi) and won the game against Lamar before that, so we’re confident and we want to get a big win at UIW.

“We’re moving the ball well and guys are making shots.”

Bile (16-26), Roberson (16-26) and Chougkaz (19-37) are the primary engines behind NSU’s improved shooting in the last four games after the Demons struggled most of the early season.

UIW (3-10, 0-2 SLC) also has a relatively balanced offense with seven players averaging five points per game and 12 players logging multiple starts this season. The Cardinals are averaging 65.5 points per game and are one of the slower-paced teams in the league.

Freshman Keaston Willis leads the Cardinals with 12 points per game and is averaging 14 points in his last 10 contests.

NSU counters with an improving defense that’s allowing opponents to shoot just 41 percent from the floor, third-best in the conference.

A win Wednesday would push the Demons’ league record to 3-2, which would be its best start since 2014-15.

Photo Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services