NATCHITOCHES – After Southeastern set the nets afire with 59 percent shooting in the first half, Northwestern State buckled down and forced the Lions to shoot 24 percent in the second half.
But SLU sustained itself with 20 second-half free throws as the Lions held on to hand NSU an 85-80 loss Saturday on the final day of the regular season.
The Demons (9-21, 5-8 Southland Conference) will play on the first day of the SLC Tournament on Wednesday, but NSU must await the finish of Saturday’s games to find out its seeding.
The Lions (18-13, 10-4 SLC) earn the No. 2 seed with the win, beating the other top two teams (UNO and Nicholls) and NSU to end their regular season.
SLU appeared to be running away late in the first half as a 10-0 run built a 47-32 edge, but the Demons completely erased that margin just five minutes later with a 18-2 run.
Two 3-pointers from Carvell Teasett and a trey from LaTerrance Reed bolstered the second-half push as NSU scored the first 13 points in quick fashion to lead 50-49.
“We showed more resolve in the second half, and we were able to get to some balls that we didn’t get in the first half,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy. “But we gave SLU too many chances on the offensive glass.
“I am proud of these guys because we started so slow, and they could have folded the tent, but they didn’t.”
Despite starting the second half 3-23 from the field, SLU broke a 63-63 tie with an 8-0 run and never trailed again.
NSU sliced the lead to four on two different occasions, but the Lions answered as they made 20-24 from the line.
The Demons, who surrendered a possible road win at SLU on Jan. 15 because of 6-17 free-throw shooting in the second half, made 10-11 from the line, but SLU (26-31) attempted 20 more free throws.
Kendal Coleman pulled down a career-high 20 rebounds, the first 20-rebound game at NSU since 2010 when Will Mosley snatched 21. Coleman scored a team-high 18 points to lead five Demons in double figures. Coleman has 16 double doubles this season and 11 against SLC opponents.
“Just a remarkable game from Kendal – he just kept coming and fighting and going for the ball,” McConathy said. “He gets better and better.”
Seniors LaTerrance Reed (13 points) and Larry Owens (12 points and seven rebounds) were among that group in their final home games. Reed made 8-8 from the free-throw line.
Teasett scored all 14 of his points in the second half with six assists and Cedric Garrett added 11 points.
SLU’s Jalyn Hinton contributed a game-high 27 points on 10-16 shooting with 13 rebounds and four blocks to lead five Lions in double figures.
Hinton scored 16 points in the first half while Owens countered with 10 of his 12.
“We don’t have a matchup for Hinton, much like Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Isaac Mushila,” McConathy said. “He’s 6-foot-5 but he’s long and wiry.
“They don’t have much of an answer for our big guys either though.”
The Demons won the rebounding battle 41-40 and 18-8 in second-chance points.
But NSU shot just 8-27 from deep (29 percent) and 43 percent overall.
After NSU held a 6-5 edge, SLU went on an 11-2 run with six Hinton points to lead 16-8.
Large momentum swings characterized the first half before the Lions took the commanding 47-32 advantage.
NSU guard Brian White missed most of the first half with an ankle injury, but White returned to play the second half although he didn’t score.
Without a fully healthy White, NSU committed 16 turnovers which led to 24 SLU points. NSU won the category, exchanging 17 SLU turnovers for 25 points.
“Without a healthy Brian, it was tough today because we couldn’t push the ball,” McConathy said. “He also gets us into our stuff and runs it the best.
“His health will be a big factor in our tournament.”
Photo: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services
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