Late turnovers cost Northwestern State lead in loss to Houston Baptist

Thursday’s matchup against Houston Baptist was all rainbows and free throws as Northwestern State held the lead for nearly 32 minutes.

But the Demons suffered seven turnovers in the final 2:50 as the Huskies clawed all the way back to hand NSU a 76-69 loss.

NSU (7-18, 3-5 SLC) led by 15 points early in the second half before HBU (8-13, 4-4 SLC) made its methodical march back into the game.

But the Huskies didn’t regain their advantage until the four-minute mark on a pair of Darius Lee free throws (70-69).

It was part of a 13-0 run as NSU was held scoreless for the final 5:32.

The Demons committed seven of their Southland Conference high 23 turnovers in the final 2:50 and managed just three shots and two free-throw attempts. It’s the second-highest turnover total this season (25 vs. ULM).

“Part of the problem was nobody came to meet the ball,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy. “The kids are trying really hard, and sometimes it might be even too hard.

“It’s disheartening and frustrating to drop this game after being on the road so much this season. We weren’t stepping into shots and instead faking and putting it on the floor.”

HBU’s 13-0 run was similar to NSU’s 18-3 run to end the Feb. 3 win (97-87) as the Demons tied a program-record with 17 3-pointers.

While the Huskies were adamant in preventing another long-range outburst, the deep ball helped NSU build its largest lead of 15 points early in the second half.

Freshman Emareyon McDonald helped NSU end the first half on a 7-2 run by scoring five of his eight first-half points (40-33 edge).

Then the Demons opened the second half with the first eight points, including 3-pointers from Carvell Teasett and Brian White. NSU made five of its first seven 3-point attempts before missing its last six.

A Kendal Coleman fastbreak bucket pushed NSU’s lead to 48-33, but the Demons scored just 21 points in the final 18:30.

“You go back to when we were up 15 points, and we came down and missed five straight open shots that were really quick,” McConathy said. “We didn’t get rebounds in that stretch, and HBU started to make their way back.

“It’s not just the last couple of minutes that cost us tonight, there are things throughout the game that could have made the difference.”

Coleman logged his 12th double double with 18 points and 12 rebounds, his 11th double double in the last 15 games.

But the typically sure-handed point guards Teasett and White combined for 11 turnovers, and Coleman added another four.

White led the conference in assist-turnover ratio at 1.98.

White and Teasett did have 12 points each but just three assists. NSU’s 17 assists per game is among the nation’s leaders, but the Demons mustered just eight Thursday.

HBU scored 25 points off those 23 NSU turnovers, and the Huskies made 16-21 from the free-throw line in the second half.

The Demons sunk 18-25 overall from the stripe.

In the first half, NSU attacked the paint and scored 20 of its 40 first-half points from inside.

White scored five of NSU’s first 10 points, including a bucket to spark an 11-2 NSU run to build a 17-9 edge.

The Demons pressed their inside advantage early, having a 10-2 edge in points in the paint although HBU matched NSU’s 20 paint points by the end of the first half.

HBU’s Brycen Long scored 10 of the Huskies’ first 12 points to support a struggling offense early, and Lee (reigning Southland Conference Player of the Week) finished the half strong to score 11 points.

Lee led all scorers with 22 points to go with eight rebounds, and other Huskies chipped in as Long (13), Khristion Courseault (16) and Tristian Moore (12) all reached double figures.

The Demons try to snap their two-game skid Saturday as they welcome McNeese to Prather Coliseum for a 3 p.m. tip on Saturday.

Photo: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services