NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State men’s basketball team has put in the majority of the work to build its four-game win streak away from Prather Coliseum.
If the Demons are to post their first five-game win streak in six seasons, they will do so in Prather Coliseum, a place they have not played in more than two weeks, and they will do so a few hours earlier than expected.
Northwestern State (6-14, 5-4) will try to extend its run of success when it hosts McNeese (8-10, 2-7) in a 4 p.m. Southland Conference matchup that will air on ESPN+. The game originally was set for 7 p.m., but the postponement of the Incarnate Word-NSU volleyball match moved the start time up three hours.
The game also will be aired on 95.9 FM and on the Demon Sports Network. Free streaming audio of the game will be available at http://www.NSUDemons.com.
After a schedule adjustment rescheduled the Demons’ home matchup with Houston Baptist from Feb. 6 to Feb. 22, NSU will finish the season with five of its final seven games inside Prather Coliseum.
“We’re thankful we got a win against UNO (at home on Jan. 27) to build some momentum,” 22nd-year head coach Mike McConathy said. “We dropped a couple at home we shouldn’t let get away, but that’s water under the bridge. We’ve moved forward. It will be nice to sleep in our own beds, but we still need to be prepared for whoever our opponent is.”
Saturday’s opponent is a McNeese team McConathy calls “one of the most talented” in the Southland.
The Cowboys are equally impressive when it comes to sheer numbers, leading the nation in assists per game (19.9) and total assists (389).
Individually, A.J. Lawson paces the Southland in assists (100), KeyShawn Feazell leads the conference in rebounding (10.6 per game) and Braelon Bush does so in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.9). Dru Kuxhausen is the conference’s top 3-point shooter in made 3s per game (3.39) and in shooting percentage (42.1).
Coming off a matchup against a UIW team that prefers to operate at a deliberate pace, the Demons will see a much different animal Saturday night.
“They’re going to push and execute,” McConathy said. “Their execution is more along the lines of ours. We both do certain things certain ways. UIW runs their offense based on how you guard, because they have a lot of counters. McNeese is extremely talented. They went up to UCA and won by 11 points after losing to them at their place. That will give them a shot in the arm coupled with the fact they are off all week.”
The Demons’ four-game win streak has been a byproduct of performing well in close games, a skill that arguably began with NSU’s 78-75 win in Lake Charles on Jan. 9.
Since that game, the Demons are 4-0 in games decided by eight points or less, a key reason the Demons have moved up to fifth place in the Southland Conference standings.
During the four-game run, Northwestern State has won by an average of 4.5 points per game, including its 68-67 win at UIW on Wednesday.
NSU has succeeded in different ways during the run.
Freshmen Carvell Teasett and Kendal Coleman carried the offense down the stretch of a five-point win at Southeastern Louisiana on Jan. 23 while Brian White iced an eight-point win against New Orleans on Jan. 27 with key free throws.
The last two wins have come via timely defense as Dalin Williams drew a charge with 1.1 seconds remaining in an 81-77 win at Central Arkansas on Jan. 30 before Teasett and LaTerrance Reed hounded UIW’s Keaston Willis into missing an off-balance jumper to seal the one-point victory.
“We say it in practice every day, ‘One stop, one stop,’” Reed said. “You never know. One stop can win us a game. One stop can win us a championship.”
Photo: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services