Northwestern State returns to its home floor on Wednesday night for the 10th home game of the season hosting Nicholls in a key Southland Conference matchup.
A third of the way through the conference schedule, the Lady Demons and Colonels enter the contest with identical 4-11 overall and 1-5 marks in league play, creating a near must-win game for both as far as the conference tournament is concerned.
Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. inside Prather Coliseum. Live coverage is available locally on 92.3 FM The Fox or CLICK HERE and the Northwestern State Athletics mobile app, which is available to download on either the Apple Store or Google Play.
Although the Lady Demons were not able to pull out the road victory this past Saturday at McNeese, the team showed more and more signs of what coach Jordan Dupuy has been looking for all season – physical play.
NSU held its ground against a very physical Cowgirl team, taking a lead into the half and only trailing by one in the rebounding category. McNeese found a hot shooting hand and took control around the glass in the second half however, leading to the 10-point victory.
No one in that game personified the type of play the Lady Demons have been looking for better than Leilani Moncrease. The junior transfer came off the bench supplying nine points and nine rebounds, including matching a career high with five boards in the first half alone.
“I think she’s really figured out her role, but we still need more consistency from her, just like every one of us,” Dupuy said. “We have to have her. She’s very physical and doesn’t mind throwing her body around.
“She can score, shoot from 15-feet in and can get to the rim. I don’t mind some of the fouls and illegal screens that she gets because her aggression is good or she’s trying to find a defender to get a teammate open. But again, it all starts in practice. You’re not going to do anything in a game that you’re not doing in practice whether it’s positive or negative.”
After a stretch of three games in less than seven days, Dupuy hopes the physical play will continue into the contest with Nicholls, the only game over the next seven days for the Lady Demons.
The Colonels have taken a step back from consecutive 19-win or better seasons, due in part to the departure of all-Southland player Cassidy Barrios who averaged nearly a double-double for her career at 16.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
“Losing Cassidy is huge,” Dupuy said. “Any team would take a dip when you lose one of best players in the conference. But they will always play hard and physical, and their matchup zone can be difficult to figure out.”
For the second time in a week the Lady Demons face a team coming off a nail-biting victory. Airi Hamilton’s game-winning layup came with 12 seconds on the clock in Nicholls’ 67-65 defeat of rival Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday afternoon. It was their first conference win of the season and snapped a season-long five-game losing streak.
During the losing skid opponents have shot better than 44 percent from the field against the Colonels in four of the past five games, giving Nicholls the second highest field goal defense in the conference.
Even with the success opponents have had against the Colonels of late and combined with the documented NSU shooting woes so far this year, it is no surprise what the key to a win is for Dupuy.
“It’s going to be about defending and rebounding for us,” Dupuy said. “Can we turn our defense turn into offense, because we’re not a half court executing team. When their defense is set it’s very difficult to attack, so we’ve got to turn defense into offense to win.
“I’m not saying we have to win the rebounding battle by five or ten, but we’ve got to be neck-and-neck. It can’t be an eight to 10 differential the other way. So, if we’re attacking the glass and close in the rebounding battle, I’ll know we’re playing good in every area. Because that’ll mean we’re playing physical and doing what it takes to win.”
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Photo Credit: Gary Hardamon