Demons’ seven-game win streak snapped at Rice

HOUSTON – A hot shooting afternoon from homestanding Rice brought an end to the longest Northwestern State men’s basketball win streak in a decade Saturday.

The Owls erased an early seven-point Demon lead and never looked back, cruising to a 110-73 victory inside Tudor Fieldhouse.

“I thought we played with the same type of aggression we normally play with,” first-year head coach Corey Gipson said.

That aggression helped the Demons (8-3) maintain their standing as one of the Southland Conference’s top turnover-forcing teams, leading to 22 Rice turnovers.

However, the Owls (8-3) overcame those miscues by shooting better than 67 percent (39-for-58) from the field and topping 85 percent (29 for 34) from the free-throw line.

Rice also outscored Northwestern State 60-36 in the paint as the Demons surrendered 100 points for the first time since giving up 104 points to Baylor on Dec. 28, 2021.

NSU took an early 11-4 lead on the first of two Ja’Monta Black first-half 3-pointers with 16:33 to play in the opening half. Black’s bucket capped a 7-0 NSU run before the Owls answered with 15 straight points that turned the tide in Rice’s favor.

Quincy Olivari had 21 of his game-high 30 points in the first half for the Owls, who hit 18 of 26 shots in the opening 20 minutes.

Olivari and Max Fiedler, Rice’s 6-foot-10 center who leads the team and Conference USA in assists, combined for 52 points while Fiedler handed out a game-high five assists.

Olivari was efficient from the floor (9 for 14) and made his way repeatedly to the free throw line, sinking 11 of 13 freebies. The 11 made free throws equaled the Demons’ total as Rice nearly doubled NSU in free throw attempts (34 to 19).

DeMarcus Sharp led three Demons in double figures with 18 points while Black and Jalen Hampton each added 12. Hampton grabbed a team-best six rebounds for the Demons, who were outdone on the glass 55-22 by the Owls.

The Demons outscored the Owls 17-10 in points off turnovers and got 28 points from the bench, including a season-best performance from Cedric Garrett in his hometown. Garrett added five points in less than 10 minutes of playing time, including his first 3-pointer of the season.

“I was more proud of the Harrison Blacks, the Karlin Hardys,” Gipson said. “Cedric Garrett was the MVP of the game. He never looked up at the score and saw how many we were down. He continued to play with tremendous effort, and he’s going to be rewarded for that in the near future.”

The Demons return to action Tuesday when they travel to Baylor. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas.