Northwestern State is no stranger to the road in nonconference games, which makes home games against quality opponents, especially an in-state rival, so valuable.
The Demons (1-3) host Louisiana Tech (2-1) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. as part of the second men’s and women’s doubleheader this season. The Lady Demons host Louisiana Christian (formerly Louisiana College) at 5:30 p.m.
Fans not able to attend the doubleheader against historic opponents Friday can catch the action via the video or audio streams at nsudemons.com or on the radio at 95.9 KIX Classic Country.
“Games like this one do mean a lot since we have a lot of road games early against high majors,” said junior point guard Brian White, who has taken over as the starter and has 17 assists to three turnovers to go with his 7.5 points per game. “We get a nice Division I opponent at home, and we get to test ourselves in front of the home crowd.”
The Demons performed well in their first two tests of the season, trailing Oklahoma by three at halftime (77-59 final score) and leading Tulsa with four minutes remaining (82-75).
NSU is 1-0 at Prather Coliseum with a 31-point win against Champion Christian before the busy start appeared to catch up with the Demons on Monday at SMU, falling by 47 points.
“The biggest thing for us to relax – this is a marathon, not a sprint,” said NSU assistant coach Dave Simmons. “We want to improve each game, and we know that our last performance wasn’t very good.
“But I think this stretch of four games in seven days will help us down the line when we’re in tough situations. This game is great for our fans against an old rival. Tech hasn’t played here since 2014, and it’s great to get this quality of a team on your home floor.”
Friday’s game is part of Tech’s multi-team event renamed the Lanky Wells Memorial Classic this season. NSU will play ULM in Ruston on Monday before the event finishes with the Warhawks and Bulldogs facing off Wednesday.
Wells was a Louisiana Tech teammate of NSU coach Mike McConathy with the duo leaving just before Simmons arrived in Ruston as a player.
Wells and McConathy are the top scoring tandem in Tech history, combining for 1,185 points as seniors (1976-77) and 3,600 career points. McConathy is Tech’s second-best scorer in history (2,033 points and 20.7 points per game) with Wells standing in 12th (1,608 points, 16.4 per game). Simmons isn’t far behind in 14th (1,563 points, 14.3 per game).
Wells didn’t graduate from Tech, instead joining McConathy’s NSU coaching staff in 2008-09 as a student assistant to finish degree at Northwestern State.
“He was the only person to call me John Michael, my first and middle name,” McConathy told his Sixth Man Club luncheon group Wednesday. “He was a great player and an even better person, and I’m honored to have played with him at Tech and have him a part of our program here at NSU.
“He was so strong and athletic that sometimes he couldn’t control himself, which led to a lot of fouls. But one of the finest humans I’ve ever known. He lived with my sons Michael and Logan when he was at NSU, and there was just something about him to where everybody wanted to be around him and talk to him.”
Wells, a Louisiana Basketball Hall of Famer, died in 2017 at the age of 61.
The connection between the two programs doesn’t stop there.
Tech forward Kenneth Lofton, Jr., established himself as one of the best young posts in the region with nine double-doubles this past season and averaging 12 points and nine rebounds this season.
NSU counterpart Kendal Coleman has set opponents ablaze so far as a second-year freshman, averaging 20 points and 7.5 rebounds through four games.
Coleman, who led the nation with 38 field goals after Monday’s games, shoots 65.5 percent from the floor and shot nearly 70 percent combined against Oklahoma, Tulsa and SMU.
The Shreveport native set two career scoring highs this season with 19 at Oklahoma (9-12 shooting) and 22 at Tulsa (10-15 shooting).
“In the offseason, I made sure I was in the gym every day and lifting weights,” said Coleman, who checks in with 220 pounds on his 6-foot-8 frame. “I feel like my teammates have been finding me and getting me the ball in my spots, and I’ve been getting good passes.
“I’m catching the ball on the block and scoring this year, where last year I really wasn’t a post scorer, just in the midrange. I feel like we match up well against Louisiana Tech, and hopefully fans can come out and support us in this rivalry game.”
The Captain Shreve product is familiar with Tech post Kenny Hunter, a Huntington High spawn who is averaging six points and five rebounds this year.
NSU will notice former UIW guard Keaston Willis in a Tech uniform as he’s the team’s top 3-point shooter (8-of-19).
The Demons are playing Tech for the eighth time in McConathy’s tenure at NSU and the second year in a row. The Bulldogs pulled away in the middle of the second half of a 91-77 win and own a 5-2 mark against NSU this century. The home team has won six of those seven meetings as NSU is 2-1 in Natchitoches.
The teams played six straight years from 2009-15. Tech leads the all-time series 77-61.
Tech enters the matchup having won its last two games, including a 70-68 gut check against Jackson State. The Bulldogs opened the season with a 29-point loss to No. 14 Alabama.
PHOTO: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services
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