CONWAY, Arkansas – Jalen Hampton accepted the challenge laid forth by his head coach Saturday evening.
Thanks to Hampton’s answer – and plenty of other contributions – the Demons’ win streak reached three with a 74-66 overtime victory against host Central Arkansas in the Central Arkansas Classic multi-team event.
“Coach said at halftime, ‘Who’s the one who is going to get 20 rebounds?’” said Hampton, a freshman from St. Louis. “I just stepped up and did my job.”
Hampton didn’t quite reach 20 rebounds, settling instead for a career-high 15 caroms. Equally as important, Hampton scored eight of his nine points after halftime, including four in overtime off a pair of offensive rebounds, as the Demons collected their first overtime win since a 70-66 win against Alabama A&M on Nov. 23, 2018.
Those buckets allowed the Demons (4-2) to shake off a wild ending that saw Central Arkansas tie the game at 64 with 0.2 seconds to play on Masai Olowokere’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
Olowokere hit the last-ditch bucket off Eddy Kayouloud’s intentionally missed free throw to cap a 6-1 run over the final 1:34 of regulation.
The Bears (3-3) extended the run to 8-1 when Johannes Kirsipuu scored on a layup 34 seconds into overtime. That would be the final points of the game for UCA, which missed its final seven shots of the game.
“The old saying is when you’re winning close, you eventually win big,” Gipson said. “I know it’s becoming cliché to talk about how resilient they are, but they are just so resilient. They have so much fight and fortitude to keep pushing through.”
After a slow start, the Demons heated up behind the shooting of Emareyon McDonald, whose 12 first-half points staked NSU to a three-point lead.
McDonald handed the hot hand to Isaac Haney at halftime.
Haney had 15 of his 18 points in the second half and overtime, hitting his first two 3s of the second half as the Demons built their largest lead of the game – a nine-point advantage with 12:34 to play.
“We’ve got a deep lineup, so if one person’s lacking, we’ve got to step up,” said McDonald, who shot 5-for-10 from the field in the opening 20 minutes. “We just keep fighting until we get the job done.”
The overtime fight began on the boards where Northwestern State posted a 9-2 advantage, leading to a 6-0 advantage in second-chance points and an 8-2 edge in points in the paint in the final five minutes of play.
Hampton and Haney combined for five of those rebounds with Haney grabbing three key defensive boards and Hampton taking care of the offensive glass.
Overall, the Demons turned their 18 offensive rebounds into 21 second-chance points.
“Jalen Hampton has a chance to be an NSU great,” Gipson said of Hampton, who finished a point shy of his first career double-double. “He’s just a freshman, but the way he attacks the offensive and defensive glass with reckless abandon – that’s just an art. People who do that have a knack for getting their hands on the basketball.”
Hampton’s nine points matched his career high while he set a career high with three assists while not committing a turnover.
While the Demons committed just eight turnovers, they forced 16 Bears’ turnovers, turning them into 16 points. Meanwhile, Central Arkansas did not convert any of the Demons’ first seven turnovers into points, getting their only bucket from that situation on Kirsipuu’s bucket to open overtime.
“Consistency, keep working hard,” Hampton said of the keys he has learned from the Demons’ veterans. “Just get the win. That’s all I know.”
The Demons wrapped up their two-day stay in the Central Arkansas Classic on Sunday, facing Bethune-Cookman. The Wildcats outlasted Idaho State, 68-66, in overtime on Saturday.
Photo Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services