Northwestern State can’t handle ULM first-half surge in loss

RUSTON – Northwestern State put a lot of emphasis on correcting its recent slow starts heading into Monday’s contest against ULM, but it was the latter part of the first half that tripped up the Demons.

ULM extended a three-point lead with a 26-5 run in the last eight minutes of the first half to pull away to a 96-66 win at Louisiana Tech’s Thomas Assembly Center. The loss finished NSU’s participation in the Lanky Wells Memorial Classic.

The Warhawks turned up their transition attack as NSU committed a season-high 25 turnovers as the Warhawks gleaned 22 points off NSU mistakes. ULM punished NSU in the paint with a 52-28 edge and a 29-13 edge in fast-break points.

“We’re disappointed that we didn’t get these guys up and ready to go, and that’s on me and the staff,” said NSU associate head coach Jeff Moore. “We had a better start to the game today, but at the eight- or nine-minute mark, we had a huge letdown.

“ULM gets up by 10 or so, and we never responded. We shot the ball pretty poorly. We had some good looks, but they didn’t go in. The 25 turnovers today, that’s how many we had in our last two games combined, so we definitely didn’t take care of the ball. But credit ULM for solid defense and causing those.”

ULM’s Nika Metskhvarishvili scored seven of his 11 first-half points in the run, including five of the last nine points to end that first-half run. He was one of three Warhawks to score a game-high 15 points, joined by Koreem Ozier and Trey Boston to lead six Warhawks in double figures.

ULM’s Boston sparked the first-half run with a three-point play that drew Kendal Coleman’s third foul of the half. Boston scored five of his 15 points in the run.

The Warhawks blazed the nets in the first half by shooting 20-of-34 from the field and 3-of-7 from deep. The 50 points allowed in a half ties the most NSU has given up, matching SMU’s 50 points in the first half.

ULM finished shooting 56.5 percent from the floor (35-62).

NSU made four of its first five shots to open the game but connected on just 6-of-25 to end the half, which included a deep 3-pointer from Larry Owens at the halftime buzzer to ULM’s edge to 50-29. NSU went the final 8:38 without a field goal in the first half before Owens’ buzzer beater.

“I thought the biggest factor today is that we didn’t win the point of contact,” Moore said. “ULM beat us on everything, from their guy driving to the rim or one of our guys driving, they beat us to the point of contact nearly every time.”

Cedric Garrett finished with a team-high 13 points on 5-10 shooting. Coleman chipped in 10 points as he’s reached double figures in all six games this season. The second-year freshman scored in double digits five times this past season.

Freshman Emareyon McDonald tied a career-high with eight points, all in the second half. The Demons warmed up in the second half to shoot 50 percent, finishing with 41 percent for the game.

Natchitoches native Thomas Howell had his first double-double of his career with 13 points and 11 rebounds for ULM.

The Demons will see ULM again on Dec. 4 in Monroe.

NSU will have its longest break of the season with nearly a week between games as the Demons return to their home floor to host Stephen F. Austin on Sunday at 3 p.m.

PHOTO: Chris Reich/Northwestern State Photographic Services