CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Northwestern State started Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s five-game slide with a win on Jan. 29, but Saturday is where it stopped as the Islanders held off the Demons in an 83-76 win.
Trailing almost all of the second half, a Carvell Teasett 3-pointer sliced the Islanders’ lead to 77-76 with 55 seconds remaining.
But with a couple of chances to take the lead late, NSU couldn’t find the bottom of the net as TAMU-CC (17-10, 4-6 SLC) made six free throws in the final minute to protect its edge.
“Cedric Garrett and Emareyon McDonald had 3-pointers late that went in and out, and we just never could get over the hump,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy. “There were a lot of ebbs and flows in that we were down 11 points then cut it to four and later to two a couple of times.
“It’s weird to say this but it reminded me of the UIW game on Thursday because they had a shots go in and out, but we blitzed them when that happened (in the 24-point win).”
NSU (8-20, 4-7 SLC) shot just 41 percent from the field and 26 percent from 3-point range as the Southland Conference’s leading shooting bunch from deep.
The Demons held a 36-35 halftime advantage before the Islanders pieced together 15-6 run to start the half and never surrendered the lead.
Isaac Mushila scored six of his 17 points during the run to go with 12 rebounds.
NSU kept itself afloat at the free-throw line, sinking a season-high 26-29 shots, including a career-best 8-8 for freshman Kendal Coleman, who was making below 50 percent for much of the season.
Coleman posted 18 points and 14 rebounds, his 13th double double in the last 18 games and ninth against SLC opponents.
But NSU grabbed just 27 rebounds as they faced a -19 rebounding margin, including an 18-4 disadvantage on the offensive glass that led to 23 second-chance points.
The Demons played zone defense for the majority of the second half, which contributed to the Islanders’ 39 percent shooting but also to the rebounding discrepancy.
“We haven’t been outrebounded like that in a long time,” said McConathy of an NSU bunch that had outrebounded 15 of its 27 opponents heading into Saturday. “Our zone caused problems for them, but it also caused problems in rebounding for us.
“It’s a tough game, but this group kept fighting back and fighting back, and this bunch might have folded three weeks ago, so I think we saw growth there.”
Against a top-10 in forcing turnovers, NSU actually won the turnover battle 15-14.
But the Islanders won the points off turnovers category 19-11, all of which came in the first half.
Joining Coleman in double figures was a career-high 10 points for Shaun Riley and a conference-high 11 points for McDonald. Riley added four rebounds and two blocks in his second straight start.
McDonald played 20 minutes with Teasett and Brian White in foul trouble early in the second half.
Teasett chipped in with 13 points including 3-6 from deep and 4-5 from the free-throw line. Jovan Zelenbaba scored 10, reaching double figures for the first time in conference play.
It’s the first time NSU has had five players in double figures in conference play and second time this season.
“I thought Emareyon did an excellent job tonight, and he had just one turnover,” McConathy said. “He’s always a threat to score, and he’s very crafty.
“Riley is long and athletic enough to put it on the floor and get to the basket, so he’s a tough matchup now that he’s grown into his role.”
For the Islanders, Terrion Murdix’s 20 points (9-10 free throws with six rebounds and five steals) led the way with 14 from DeLazurus Keys and 11 from Trevian Tennyson to join Mushila (17).
In the first half, NSU didn’t grab a lead until a 10-5 run handed the Demons a 27-26 edge.
Three-pointers from Zelenbaba and McDonald laid the foundation for the run before Kendal Coleman and Cedric Garrett knocked down jumpers.
The second wave stabilized an NSU offense that started just 3-10 from the field, and a Robert Chougkaz three-point play sliced AMCC’s lead to 16-15 before the Islanders traded buckets with the Demons for the next few minutes.
Coleman led all scorers with 12 points on 5-6 shooting and seven rebounds in the first half.
McDonald supplied seven points off the bench including four made free throws.
Each team forced 11 turnovers, but the Islanders led 19-4 in points off those turnovers thanks to a 13-5 edge in fastbreak points.
But the halfcourt execution went to the Demons as NSU shot 44 percent from the floor compared to just 36 percent for the Islanders.
NSU missed an opportunity to gain on other teams vying for fourth place as Houston Baptist (4-6 SLC) and McNeese (4-7) both lost. The Islanders (4-6) are currently in the best shape for the final SLC Tournament bye.
The Demons cap the regular season with three home games against teams that handed NSU an 0-3 start to league play on the road.
NSU welcomes Nicholls on Thursday and UNO on Saturday before bringing in Southeastern to finish the regular season on March 5.
The three teams combined are 22-6 in SLC games.
PHOTO: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services