Demon ‘bigs’ key in road finale matchup at New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS – There are not many opponents in the Southland Conference against whom the Northwestern State men’s basketball team holds a decided size advantage.

New Orleans, who the Demons face Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in Lakefront Arena, is one of them.

As Northwestern State (9-16, 8-6) readies for its final road game of the 2020-21 regular season – one that potentially could decide the No. 4 seed in next week’s Southland Conference Tournament – it will try to exploit that advantage with a group of bigs that has meshed at the right time.

The game can be heard on 95.9 FM and on the Demon Sports Network. Free streaming audio is available on and through the Northwestern State Athletics mobile app, which can be downloaded free for Apple and Android devices.

“It was important for us to get both (Jamaure Gregg and Larry Owens) going, along with Kendal Coleman,” 22nd-year head coach Mike McConathy said. “Kendal’s been going all year. He’s had a really good freshman year. Dalin Williams has started coming on. We have not missed much when we’ve substituted.

“They’re different types of players, but they’re getting rebounds and defending. We’ve seen a lot of growth, and we’ve been able to get (6-foot-11 freshman) Stavros (Polatoglou) in some, too.”

Although Northwestern State fell to Nicholls on Monday, the Demon frontcourt held its own with the Colonels. Gregg shared the team lead with 15 points while Owens and Coleman combined for 16 points and 15 rebounds.

In an 18-point win against Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday, Gregg and Owens each had 10 points as the Demons spread out the scoring and playing time.

In the first meeting this season between the teams, Northwestern State grabbed an 81-73 victory in Prather Coliseum on Jan. 27.

The Demons powered their way to 58 points in the paint against the Privateers (7-14, 6-7), a season high for Northwestern State and double NSU’s season average in that category.

That inside game helped the Demons shoot 58.8 percent on two-point shots against UNO, which has won three of its past four games, including an 88-72 win at Incarnate Word on Monday.

That win moved the Privateers within five points of the Demons in the Southland’s scoring system instituted for this season. Under that design, teams are awarded three points for a win and a single point for a game declared a “no contest.”

New Orleans’ Feb. 20 game against McNeese will not be made up, which keeps the Privateers within striking distance of the Demons in the league standings.

McConathy and the Demons are plenty familiar with the Privateers, who are coached by Mark Slessinger, an assistant on McConathy’s staff for 11 seasons.

“New Orleans has a brand of toughness,” McConathy said. “They’re going to show up, and it will be a tough, tough fight. Coach Slessinger does an excellent job with his team. They are equally as physical as Stephen F. Austin, and it’s going to be a battle.”

McConathy said he feels his team is in a better spot to match New Orleans’ toughness even more so than in the Demons’ victory earlier this season.

“I go back to our Nicholls game here (on Jan. 13),” he said. “I play it over in my head the number of Nicholls players who just took the ball from our guys. It happened against SFA the other night. Then, I saw some of our guys just go and take the ball from Southeastern. It’s a learning process for us, picking up what others are doing well and adding it to what we do.”

Photo: Credit: Brad Weimer/Nicholls Athletics