Transition defense to loom large in Northwestern State’s trip to Texas A&M

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Northwestern State will need to perform well in many areas when they head to Texas A&M on Tuesday, but limiting the Aggies’ transition opportunities will be paramount to the Demons (3-9) challenging TAMU.

The Aggies (8-2) generate part of their transition offense by turning 18 opponent turnovers into 18 points per game.

Transition defense has been a problem spot for the Demons this season, but an area in which they’ve improved lately.

NSU gave up just eight points off turnovers in a win against Southwestern Adventist on Saturday after allowing 17 points off turnovers at LSU despite the Tigers employing a press for long stretches of the Dec. 14 game.

Demons’ opponents are averaging 17 points off NSU turnovers this season.

“Texas A&M is unbelievable in transition, and that’s an area we’ve really worked on this season,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy. “LSU didn’t hurt us in transition that much, and we can’t let teams get out and score like that.

“We’re getting better at it, but we’ve got to do a great job in transition defense, rebounding and taking care of the ball.”

Fans can watch the action at 5 p.m. on SEC Network or listen to 95.9 FM KIX Country.

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NSU is coming off one of its best performances of the season in a 104-50 win against Southwestern Adventist, a member of the National Christian Colleges Association.

Leading 15-14, the Demons closed the first half on a 35-6 run and didn’t look back as Emareyon McDonald’s 14 points led 11 different NSU scorers who had at least five points. Fellow freshman guard Carvell Teasett contributed a season-high 12 points in his third game of the season as he works his way back into the rotation.

“The (SWAU) game was a great one for us because the Knights execute really well, and we had to guard down against quicker opponents,” McConathy said. “Texas A&M is really quick with three perimeter players who are very athletic, so we think the (SWAU) game leads in very nicely for us because we sat down and guarded well.”

Freshman Kendal Coleman posted his third straight double double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, his fourth of the season. Coleman has done his best work against NSU’s toughest opponents, averaging 17.6 points and 7.4 rebounds against Power Five and American Athletic Conference foes.

Coleman is part of an NSU youth movement in which freshmen and sophomores are scoring 73 percent of NSU’s points, although that includes some third-year players because of the extra COVID-19 year of eligibility.

Sophomore transfer Cedric Garrett (7.9 ppg) and freshman Emareyon McDonald (7.0 ppg) are NSU’s other top two young scorers.

Rebounding has also been an improving facet of NSU’s game as the Demons have outrebounded seven of their 12 opponents after dominating SWAU by 25.

NSU has outrebounded the likes of Oklahoma, Louisiana Tech, Stephen F. Austin and once against ULM. The Demons pushed LSU in the rebounding battle for the first 30 minutes, resulting in 14 offensive boards at LSU before late rebounds pushed the Tigers’ overall edge to +14.

Texas A&M counters with a balanced offensive attack in which seven players average at least six points per game with bench player Quenton Jackson leading the way with 12.5 points per game.

Much like LSU, the Aggies present a formidable defense that allows opponents to shoot just 39 percent from the field and 62 points per game.

The Aggies logged their second Power Five win of the season by beating Oregon State by 10 on the road, chalking that victory next to Notre Dame (73-67), coached by former NSU player Mike Brey.

Texas A&M is NSU’s sixth Power Five or American Athletic Conference opponent this season with one more (Baylor) on the docket.

“It’s been a tough schedule, but every time we play one of these games, we are getting better,” McConathy said. “We’ll be prepared when we do start playing opponents that are more like us.”

Texas A&M head coach Buzz Williams is no stranger to Northwestern State, serving as an assistant in McConathy’s first season in 1999-2000.

The Demons rallied to the Southland Conference Tournament game and won 17 contests, the program’s most in eight seasons.

NSU battled Texas A&M in Williams’ first game as an Aggies head coach in 2019-20, cutting TAMU’s edge to seven points under four minutes remaining in an eventual 77-63 loss.

Senior LaTerrance Reed is one of four Demons who played in that game, scoring nine points and make two 3-pointers.

PHOTO: Gary Hardamon/NSU Photographic Services


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