LAKE CHARLES – Northwestern State makes its first Southland Conference road trip of the season looking to build on a solid performance in the conference opener.
The Lady Demons (4-7, 0-1) take on McNeese Thursday evening beginning at 5 p.m., as part of NSU’s first Southland doubleheader of the season with the NSU men. The game can be seen on ESPN+ with free streaming audio also available at www.nsudemons.com/watch.
The deceiving margin of the final score in NSU’s conference-opening loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi was not indicative of the level of competition throughout the game. The close game and the thought that at any point the Lady Demons could make a run was a product of the intensity they played with throughout much of the game.
Something that head coach Anna Nimz was most pleased with seeing against the team picked as the preseason favorites to win the conference.
“The genuine effort, the 50/50 balls and the overall hustle we had there is something we need to take into every single conference game from here on out,” she said. “Felt like with all those things we were really good for about 90 percent of the game, so we spent the past week working on that final 10 percent or so. Won’t say that we got it all the way there, but I think it’s important to focus on that in practice and add to the things we’re doing well.”
A hopeful by product of the effort and hustle the Lady Demons saw in the game is an increase in confidence levels across the board, especially on the offensive end.
Sharna Ayres has led the NSU scoring attack over the past four games, averaging 13.3 points per game during the stretch. She attributed confidence in her shot as the main reason behind her recent point uptick, something Nimz hopes spreads throughout the team and starts well before game days role around.
“You gain that confidence in practice more so than in games,” Nimz said. “So, it’s about challenging them to lay it on the line in practice, see where it works and where it doesn’t and continue to grow as individuals.
“We spend time talking about emotional maturity and intelligence in terms of not letting one bad shot or one miss affect the next five. The more that we can control our minds and find confidence in ourselves, the more confident we’ll be on the court.”
The Lady Demons will need a good level of certainty about them as they take on a quick McNeese team that looks to cause chaos on the floor and catch the opponent off guard on the defensive end.
“They are going to press a lot so we are going to have to play with composure for the entire night,” Nimz said. “They’re consistent on their defensive scheme and are long on the front of it so we have to be able to attack those gaps when they present themselves.”
On the other side of the ball, the Lady Demons have put plenty of emphasis on rebounding this season to the tune of a 40 per game average, the third best mark in the conference to this point in the season.
McNeese, however, leads the league at 41.2 per game and also has taken the second most free throws of any team in the Southland, using their rebounding ability to earn extra chances on the offensive end.
“We have to be able to lock people down one-on-one and secure the rebound after the fact,” Nimz said. “All of their players do a great job of crashing the boards and a lot of times that’s where they’re drawing those fouls and getting to the line. So at the end of the day we have to do things that turn into the big things when the game is over.”