The Northwestern State men’s basketball team returns to Prather Coliseum on Thursday to host Incarnate Word in the Demons first home game in 40 days.
NSU’s eight-game road trip included visits to Texas locales like Texas A&M, Baylor and Katy before its three-game road swing to begin Southland Conference.
The Demons (4-16, 0-3 SLC) are back in Prather for Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. tilt against the Cardinals (4-16, 0-3 SLC), the first home game since hosting Southwestern Adventist on Dec. 18. The 40 days between home games is tied for the fourth-longest stretch in the nation..
Fans not able to attend the men’s and women’s doubleheader can catch a video stream on nsudemons.com, audio on FM 94.9 The River or on the NSU app.
“I’ve never had this long between home games, and we’re very eager to get back after having three tough away games against some of the best teams in our conference,” said Natchitoches native Brian White. “We’re looking forward to taking care of the home floor.
“We’re ready to win. It’s time for it. We’ve played in big games, now it’s time to get to it. We learned that we have to win close games because that’s what the rest of the conference schedule is going to be.”
For a Demons squad that’s had chances to win on the road against arguably the three best teams in the SLC, small advantages like not having to travel and sleep away from home could tip the scales in NSU’s favor.
“It’s going to be good to play back at home,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy. “It’s been a tough stretch, but hopefully we’ll keep rolling down the road.
“It’s not like we’re not close, it’s just what’s it going to take to get over the hump. We’ve spent more than one in four nights on the road during this stretch, and it wears on you.”
NSU’s lone win against an SLC foe came against UIW in the SLC Tip-Off event, which doesn’t count toward league play.
Sophomore guard Cedric Garrett provided a tip-in three-point play with 17 seconds remaining that lifted NSU to an 83-80 win.
The usual starter has shined coming off the bench in the last two games, accounting for 21 points after scoring 28 points combined in the previous six contests.
“Sometimes a change of scenery makes all the difference,” McConathy said. “Coming off the bench allows you to see some things before you go in the game, and sometimes you can be more productive that way.
“Cedric has done a great job with that, seeing and assessing the game.”
Because of matchups, senior center Larry Owens didn’t appear in the first UIW matchup.
But he’s been a force since that Jan. 7 game, averaging 13 points and more than six rebounds in the last four outings. That included a 21-point performance at Southeastern.
Victory has eluded NSU in the last four games since the UIW win, but the Demons have been knocking on the door.
NSU fell twice to UNO, an 80-79 contest in which a 30-9 free-throw advantage for the Privateers loomed large after the Demons led most of the Jan. 8 game.
Then came the start of SLC play. NSU shot just 6-17 from the free-throw line in the second half at SLU, losing a 10-point second-half lead in the 79-74 defeat.
The Demons dropped a 69-58 decision at Nicholls in which the Colonels outscored NSU 17-6 in the last 10 minutes.
The most recent defeat came at UNO in which NSU chiseled away at an 18-point Privateer lead before a late UNO surge led to an 85-77 Demon loss.
NSU was outscored 11-7 in the final minutes of the latest UNO loss, but it highlights an issue in late-game situations. SLU held an 11-3 edge in the last three minutes and UNO a 7-2 advantage at the end of the Jan. 8 contest.
UNO and SLU are a combined 5-1 in league play while preseason favorite Nicholls is 1-2 with both losses coming to the former squads.
“All of that means we’re not far away because these three teams are extremely talented and well-coached, and it does give us a great deal of hope to be in the game at the end,” McConathy said. “We’ve just got to finish.”
That’s exactly what the Demons did against UIW earlier this season, pushing NSU’s edge in the series to 8-3.
But the Cardinals topped NSU in the last meeting in Prather Coliseum, and McConathy said playing a disciplined UIW is always tough.
“There’s not going to be a lot of difference (Thursday) because they are going to continue to execute their stuff and go about things in a very professional manner,” McConathy said. “(Coach Carson Cunningham) does a very good job over there with all the ball screens and mismatches they try to create.”
NSU held a plus-eight rebounding advantage and a 16-4 edge in second-chance points in the first meeting.
Freshman center Kendal Coleman got back on track in the last game at UNO, producing 19 points, a career-high four assists and a career-high tying 15 rebounds. It’s his eighth double double in his last 10 games and ninth overall this season.
UIW guard R.J. Glasper averages nearly 15 points per game to lead the Cardinals.
Photo: Gary Hardamon/NSU Photographic Services
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