JONESBORO, Ark. – Northwestern State may have lost the first two games of its week-long road trip, but they were anything but losing efforts on the floor. Ask any person that watched the games at Kansas State and Wichita State and it’s easy to see why head coach Anna Nimz readily called the games “learning efforts.”
“There’s something to be said for playing these bigger conference schools and these upper-level basketball teams,” Nimz said. “I think they’re starting to see that they can play. Collectively as a group they’re continuing to grow together on the court and off the court.
“I think they’re starting to see that if we put it all together, we keep growing, keep being coachable, keep fixing stuff they see a little further than the game that day. I think they’re having some fun and when you can mix the work with that, you’re going to have a better group.”
The Lady Demons (3-3) carry their tremendous effort at Wichita State to their next game on Thursday at Arkansas State (4-4) looking to continue to progression and turn what they have so far into a win.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. and can be seen with a subscription on ESPN+. Live Action Audio will be on 95.9 FM Kix Country in the Natchitoches area.
In the span of just a few hours the Lady Demons were able to turn one great quarter against Kansas State into three against Wichita State. NSU held leads after the first 10 minutes in both games, but a handful of scoring droughts cost it against the Wildcats. While the seven-minute drought against the Shockers proved costly, that was the only instance in a game where the Lady Demons pulled within a point in the third quarter.
“If we’re able to stay on the trajectory that it’s going, it’s going to be exciting,” Nimz said. “To watch them at K-State and to grow from one game to the next and if we’re able to grow every single game and every single practice I really am excited for the girls and what their future holds.”
Monette Bolden has been an integral part of the maturation of the team with her calm and experience on the floor setting the tone from the start. She had nine points in the first quarter on Monday and finished the game with 17 adding five rebounds and five assists not leaving the floor the entire night.
The Lady Demons continue to get production up and down the roster with Jasmin Dixon providing impeccable defense and getting a breakout performance from Jiselle Woodson against the Shockers that Nimz thinks will propel the NJCAA All-American ahead.
“We’ve been waiting for it,” she said. “Just really happy for her and I loved her reactions to every shot. She had confidence and I think that was her “ah-ha” moment that we’ve talked about with different kids to progress her forward with great confidence that she can play at that level.”
The learning efforts of the past two games have given the Lady Demons confidence going into another challenge against Arkansas State who are looking for retribution following a pair of losses during the Thanksgiving weekend.
The Red Wolves lost games to Oral Roberts and former Southland Conference team Abilene Christian by similar scores of 81-62 (ORU) and 81-69 (ACU). Abilene shot nearly 60 percent from the field in the game while Oral Roberts came in at 45 percent, a trend this year for the ASU defense.
In their eight games this year opponents have shot better than 40 percent from the floor five times with three instances of 45 percent or better. While the Lady Demons have hovered around 36 percent for the majority of the season, their conference-leading defense have held opponents to less than 60 points a game.
“Arkansas State’s incredibly fast, incredibly athletic, really good on the boards especially on the offensive end so we’re going to have to go there with an even bigger chip,” Nimz said. “How we came out of the gate in the last two games, it’s got to grow Thursday. By no means can we dip at all or that game’s not going to go the way we want it.”
Regardless of the outcome on Thursday, the lessons learned, and experiences gained thus far will pay dividends for the Lady Demons down the road as they continue to evolve and prepare for conference play.
“I think if we continue to buy in to the process and understand that we’re going to have ups and downs, we’re going to go through droughts and it’s how we correct those and really fine tune things,” Nimz said. “That’s just part of the growth and maturity of the team and that’s going to happen.”
Photo: Shocker Athletics