Northwestern State comeback bid falls short at UNO

NEW ORLEANS — Northwestern State nearly dug itself out of a 14-point, second half hole, cutting New Orleans’ lead to four points under four minutes remaining Saturday at Lakefront Arena.

But the Privateers drained enough free throws and outscored NSU 11-7 in the final four minutes to fend off the Demons, 85-77.

UNO made 22-25 from the free-throw line, enough to overcome NSU’s push midway through the second half. The Demons made just 5-9 from the stripe.

“We were really good tonight in that we created the shots we wanted,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy. “It’s pretty frustrating that more of those shots haven’t fallen, but these guys showed incredible resolve tonight after a slow start.

“We just have to keep holding on, maintain our will to fight and make it through this tough time.”

The Demons (4-16, 0-3 Southland Conference) compiled an 11-3 run to slice UNO’s edge to 68-66 with just more than five minutes left. Junior Brian White scored five points in the run, part of his season-high 21 points on 6-9 shooting.

White hit one of his three 3-pointers in that stretch and shot an astounding 9-12 overall for the 5-foot-6 guard.

LaTerrance Reed contributed all four of his points to a spurt that chopped UNO’s lead to 68-66 with 5:15 remaining.

Kendal Coleman scored two of his 19 points in the run to pair with a career-high-tying 15 rebounds and a career-high four assists. The double double is his eighth in 10 games and ninth overall this season.

But the Privateers (10-8, 3-0) never surrendered their lead and never trailed during the game.

UNO, who has won six straight, steadied the ship behind 29 points from Derek St. Hilaire, who scored 31 in the first meeting. Hilaire made 11-20 from the field and 3-7 from deep.

NSU’s Cedric Garrett scored 12 points on 4-6 shooting while Zelenbaba chipped in seven points.

“Brian White had a great game, and Kendal continues to give us really strong performances,” McConathy said. “But there were two guys in my opinion who made a difference for us.

“Cedric Garrett and Jovan Zelenbaba combined for 19 points out of that number three spot, and that’s something we haven’t had a lot of this year.”

After an 0-3 start on the road in league play against teams that started a combined 6-3, NSU returns home for the first time in 40 days as they host UIW on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

The Demons are on a five-game slide which includes their second loss to UNO during that stretch, following an 80-79 defeat in the SLC Tip-Off event in Katy, Texas.

Aside from Hilaire’s 29 points, Troy Green logged 16 points (10-11 from the free-throw line) and nine rebounds. Simeon Kirkland and Tyson Jackson each had 11 points with a combined 12 rebounds.

UNO reversed their fortunes on the boards from the first meeting, claiming a 42-30 edge on the glass thanks in part to NSU’s 73-58 edge in shot attempts.

The Demons did have a plus-one margin on the offensive glass (12-11).

NSU won the turnover battle 20-14 and had a slight edge in points off turnovers (17-15).

Early in the game, Coleman kept the Demons afloat, but the Privateers widened a one-point lead with a 19-6 run to build 26-13 edge.

The Privateers made eight of their first 10 shots and finished the first half at 56 percent overall. UNO shot 52 percent for the game.

St. Hilaire accounted for 17 points, including 10 of UNO’s first 18 to propel the strong start.

“Hilaire was unconscious in the first half, although we did a little better job on him in the second half,” McConathy said. “We had chances to make plays and shots that confident teams usually make, we just have to get to a point where we can build a little of that confidence.”

Coleman accounted for eight points and six rebounds in the first half, and he combined with Cedric Garrett (eight points) and Brian White (seven points) to shoot 10-18 overall. But the rest of the Demons shot 3-15 as NSU made just 39 percent overall.

NSU warmed up to 48 percent in the second half and finished at 44 percent.

UNO led by as many as 18 points late in the first half before NSU scored the last five on a Garrett 3-pointer and Coleman bucket.

Photo: Matt Vines/NSU Athletics