Demons set to resume rivalry with Lumberjacks

NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Although the names – and one conference – have changed, the rivalry between Northwestern State and Stephen F. Austin remains.

The former Southland Conference mates resume their now non-conference series Thursday night at 8 in William R. Johnson Coliseum with Northwestern State making their first trip to Nacogdoches since Jan. 20, 2021.

The game can be seen on ESPN+ with free streaming audio available through

“They have a long history of success,” first-year coach Corey Gipson said of the Lumberjacks. “The staff does a phenomenal job down there. They really get after you with their pressure defense. They want to get after you and convert turnovers like we do.”

SFA (4-3) leads the nation in turnovers forced per game (22.7) while the Demons have caused an average of 16.6 miscues per game, which ranks 53rd nationally.

“It’s going to be a possession game,” Gipson said. “We’re going to approach this game like every other game. The No. 1 goal is sill Northwestern State. That will always be the priority. We know what we’re up against.”

Northwestern State has turned its 16.6 turnovers per game into an average of 17.1 points per game, thanks in part to an offense that has found more balance between its veterans and its emerging young players.

Playing without senior guard Ja’Monta Black for the first time this season this past Sunday, the Demons saw five players score in double figures as NSU won its fourth straight game, topping Bethune-Cookman 69-66.

“The next man stepped up,” said senior point guard DeMarcus Sharp, who had 11 points in the win. “Emareyon McDonald stepped up. Jalen (Hampton), he stepped up. We always talk about when anybody gets hurt – God forbid it happens again – the next man steps up.”

While McDonald had 28 games of college experience under his belt entering this season, Hampton had none.

A 6-foot-7 freshman from St. Louis, Hampton averaged a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds in the Demons’ two wins at the Central Arkansas Classic.

Through seven games, Hampton leads the Demons in rebounding, pulling down 6.4 per game. His 2.9 offensive rebounds per game rank 87th nationally.

Hampton is not alone in his improvement and adjustment to the college level.

“They are getting more and more comfortable,” Gipson said of his younger players. “We trust those guys because of how hard they work. It hasn’t just been physical development.

“We talk a lot about what happens from the shoulders up. They have invested themselves in watching film. When you watch film, the game slows down and becomes the matrix. With our young guys, it’s becoming a matrix for them.”

Photo Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services