This was the type of game the Northwestern State men’s basketball team had searched for.
By finding it, the Demons did something 70 years in the making.
Behind Ja’Monta Black’s 3-point shooting barrage and a bushel of second-chance points, the Demons ran away from longtime rival ULM, 91-73, to win their seventh straight game and match the program’s best 10-game start – one that came in the 1952-53 season.
Black poured in a career-high 31 points, equaling a career best with seven 3-pointers, as the Demons improved to 8-2 and posted their largest margin of victory this season.
“Ja’Monta is one of the best shooters in the country,” first-year head coach Corey Gipson said. “I’ve said that for a few years now. I said it when he was in high school. He is a sniper. He’s a professional sniper. When you have a guy who shoots the 3 ball like him, that’s an art. That’s a skill set. He’s going to have a bright future ahead of him.”
It was Black’s hot start that lifted the Demons from an early hole. Playing for the first time since their last-second win against Southern Miss on Dec. 4, NSU fell behind 19-11 less than 8 minutes into the game.
That’s when Black took aim at the Warhawks (3-7).
The senior transfer from Missouri State buried 3s on consecutive possessions to cut the lead to two and made it three straight long-range buckets on NSU’s first possession following the media timeout.
“I’ve got to credit that all to my teammates,” said Black, whose seven 3-pointers tied his career high set three times at Missouri State and in the Demons’ Nov. 14 win at then-No. 15 TCU.
“They know once I catch fire it’s like throwing a penny in the ocean. They kept feeding me the ball and trusting me to have this type of game.”
Black’s third straight 3 came at the 10:32 mark of the first half and was part of a 14-0 run fashioned by himself and Isaac Haney, who scored the final five points of the spurt.
Black and Haney (13 points) were two of the Demons’ four double-figure scorers. DeMarcus Sharp (11) and Jalen Hampton (10) joined them as NSU played a season-high 14 players – 10 of whom scored.
Natchitoches native Thomas Howell led four ULM players in double figures with 16 points.
The Demons connected on 11 3-pointers for the second time in three games, dating to their Dec. 1 win at Stephen F. Austin. The flood of 3-pointers helped the Demons pull away from a game ULM squad that effectively was turned away by another Black surge.
After Tyreke Locure’s bucket pulled ULM within six at the 14:55 mark of the second half, Black rattled off the Demons’ next eight points, including another set of 3s on back-to-back possessions the give NSU a 12-point lead with 12:32 to play.
While Black has been a permanent part of the Demon lineup in its first 10 games, the Demons picked up a key reinforcement Saturday when 6-foot-8 San Jose State transfer Majok Kuath made his NSU debut.
The newly eligible Kuath snagged a team-high 10 rebounds as the Demons were plus-5 on the boards (43-38).
Kuath was one of three Demons with at least five offensive rebounds, grabbing seven as NSU turned its 25 offensive rebounds into 26 second-chance points.
“I was excited,” said Kuath, a junior from Salt Lake City. “I know I’m kind of rusty offensively, but I’m ready to do whatever to help the team if it’s rebound, play defense, get on the floor. That’s just who I am. I’m here to play hard.”
Kuath threw down a monster two-handed dunk off one of his offensive rebounds, which awakened the crowd of 1,627 and set the stage for another memorable moment Saturday.
That came with 1:05 to play when Hansel Enmanuel rose through the lane and delivered a tomahawk dunk for the last of his five points.
Enmanuel had scored his first collegiate basket at the 2:28 mark of the second half on a layup. He followed his own missed free throw with the powerful dunk that reverberated throughout the building.
“I had to keep going after the layup – that was my first bucket,” Enmanuel said. “I know my family was proud. I had to keep working. You can’t give up.
“That was a great game for us. Everyone was hitting shots. The bench was great. The energy was great. We play hard. That’s our team – the Demons.”
The Demons return to action in one week, traveling to Houston to face Rice on Dec. 17. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. inside Tudor Fieldhouse.
Photo Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services