Lady Demons top LeTourneau in season opener

After dispatching some early jitters in the opening game of the 2022-23 season, Northwestern State used bursts of offense in during the middle part of the game to pick up the 79-34 win against LeTourneau on Monday night.

“We’ve got a lot of things we want to fix and so we’re going to chalk tonight up to some first-game jitters,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “I thought we played a lot more composed and controlled in our scrimmages. Tonight was the first game in Prather, first time putting on our uniforms and really getting up and getting going. So, scratch it up to first-game jitters. But there are so many things we can learn from on film and capitalize on moving forward.”

It took half of the first quarter for the Lady Demons to convert a shot from the field as they clung to a 2-0 lead on a pair of Karmelah Dean free throws early in the game. But as it so often did for NSU a year ago, the defense sparked the offense late in the quarter.

Jiselle Woodson swiped a pass for an easy run-out layup that started the 9-2 run to end the first quarter. Woodson’s steal was three in the first quarter and the 12 total turnovers for the YellowJackets through the first 10 minutes of play.

The relentless Lady Demon defense nearly pitched a first-quarter shutout if not for a pair of free throws with three seconds remaining in the quarter. NSU held LeTourneau to just 10 first-half points on two made field goals.

NSU scored on three out of four possessions early in the second with Jasmin Dixon, Sharna Ayres and Gabrielle Robinson-Forde each putting a bucket in during the stretch that pushed the lead to 16 and served as the first scoring burst for the Demons.

The second big jump came on back-to-back 3-pointers from junior college transfer Shelby Rayner. She knocked down the first on an inbound play from Woodson and hit the second after a Dixon steal on the ensuing LETU possession.

Rayner had eight of her 10 first-half points in the second quarter and finished the game leading all scorers with 17 points and also lead the team with five assists.

“I was excited for the game all day and really since last night,” Rayner said. “I think with the way we started the game we were maybe a bit too excited because we fumbled the ball a bit. But we were able to get back into it playing our game.”

Alecia Whyte finished the half with her points of the season on a layup with nine second remaining giving NSU the 36-10 lead at the break.

The Lady Demons extended their lead in the third with their best offensive quarter of the game, scoring 28 points on 8-of-15 shooting with 10 different players contributing during the period.

Freshman Kayla Hampton scored her first collegiate basket after getting her first collegiate steal on the final play of the third quarter to make the score 64-17. Fellow freshman Ivona Miljanic also scored her first points in college on a 3-pointer from the corner on a kick-out pass from Dixon midway through the fourth.

NSU had 13 different players score on the night with 14 playing five minutes or more in the game.

Dixon recorded her first career double-double in the win with 11 points and 12 rebounds, a point of emphasis for the sophomore center coming into the opener.

“I came into the game wanting to really work on my rebounding,” Dixon said. “I know that I can go up and get them. With my teammates boxing out like they did it definitely made it a lot easier for me.”

“I think we had some really good action and really good spurts,” Nimz said. “I think we have a better I.Q. and feel for the game but we have to do a better job taking care of the ball. If we have the turnovers like we did tonight on Friday, it’s a much different game. It’s about valuing the ball and overall better play.”

Credit: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services