SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Like Gandalf at the Battle of Helm’s Deep, Northwestern State’s 90-72 win against McNeese arrived precisely when it needed to, snapping a five-game losing skid and potentially setting NSU up for a strong finish.
“There were so many positives that happened, but when it comes down to it we absolutely needed that game to continue to grow and get better,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “We talk about the process all the time, but the kids need to see some success too with that.
“The games we didn’t win weren’t for lack of effort, I think they fight really hard, I think we just had some mental lapses, and we did that against McNeese down the stretch too, but they pulled through and put a team win together. It came at a perfect time because they need to see and feel some success to continue to buy into what we’re trying to do and build.”
Looking to build on an important and impressive victory with still the majority of the second half of the SLC schedule ahead, the Lady Demons (10-10, 3-6) make their final road trip of the season starting with a Thursday evening matchup at UIW (7-13, 3-6). The game can be heard locally in Natchitoches on 95.9 FM with free streaming audio available at http://www.nsudemons.com/watch or on the NSU Athletics mobile app, a free download in either the Apple or Google Stores.
The momentum NSU is feeling after the win comes from the way they were able to perform. All the shots that hadn’t been falling in the five games prior went in and the early and constant success of Jordan Todd fueled the confidence for the other four players on the court and everyone coming off the bench.
Todd had 13 first-quarter points and finished the game with a career-high 28 and her fifth double-double of the season, earning her a second Southland Conference Player of the Week honor.
Her double-double was the third in three games for NSU after back-to-back 10-point, 10-rebound performances from guard Monette Bolden. Bolden didn’t reach double figures in either category against McNeese but channeled her best Samwise Gamgee and matched a career high with nine assists, a testament to the confidence the shooters felt throughout the game.
“By Todd being successful early it relieved pressure from our perimeters,” she said. “We haven’t been shooting well but by her being able to dominate inside it created easy looks for us.”
Todd’s big game was a product of the progression shown since the beginning of the year, and especially in the past few weeks of conference play. Nimz is hopeful that this is just the start of what could be for the junior transfer.
“She’s gotten better in every single game, maybe not to those numbers she had Saturday, but better each time,” she said. “She’s consistently surprising herself. She has incredible hands and footwork around the rim, but I’m excited her hard work was recognized and it wasn’t just about the points. It was about the rebounds and getting bodies and doing thigs the right way. I think it’s still just the beginning for her.”
The Lady Demons are hopeful the win leads to Frodo-like redemption on Thursday against UIW as they look to toss the memories of the previous matchup deep into the fires of Mount Doom.
In a defensive slugfest, NSU led the game 40-26 entering the fourth quarter but finished the game with one of their least effective shooting efforts of the season, scoring just five points while their lead slowly faded away.
UIW’s Jaaucklyn Moore, was the top scorer in the conference at the time and remains there entering Thursday, had just five points before the final 10 minutes. She carried the Cardinals to victory with 15 in the fourth, starting NSU’s five-game skid.
“As coaches we go in pretty motivated every single game and don’t focus on redemption or any of that,” Nimz said. “I hope that the girls realize that we played three quarters of basketball, we were up 14 and we quite literally gave that one away.
“We got tight and got away from what we were doing. We stopped guarding, getting in and getting tight shots, it was a spiral, one that was really tough to get a handle on. So, I hope that they’re ready to go in and play. Play their game, play to the very best of their ability and that’s all I ask.”
Bolden added, “We were all disappointed at how that game ended but with the momentum we have, I believe we are ready for a different result.”
Photo: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services