Demons eye aggressive Sharp in first meeting with Southeastern

HAMMOND – First-year Northwestern State men’s basketball coach Corey Gipson is not driven by the outcome of games, focusing instead on his team learns day in and day out.

Although Gipson’s attention tends to be toward the process than a singular outcome, he knows what affects the net results for his Demon team, which plays league co-leader Southeastern in the second of a three-game Southland Conference road trip at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

For Northwestern State (10-8, 2-3) that comes in the form of point guard DeMarcus Sharp.

Entering Thursday’s game against the Lions (9-8, 4-1), which will air on ESPN+ with free streaming audio through www.NSUDemons.com and the Northwestern State Athletics mobile app, Sharp leads Northwestern State in scoring (15.2 ppg) and assists (77) while sharing the team lead in steals (30) and blocks (10).

A 6-foot-3 Missouri State transfer, Sharp ranks in the top 10 in the Southland Conference in assists (3rd), free-throw percentage (82.6, 4th), scoring (6th), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5, 6th), blocks per game (0.6, T-7th), steals (30, T-9th) and rebounding (5.5, 10th).

“I don’t mind saying this publicly, because the opponent also knows this in regards to how we play – when DeMarcus Sharp is the aggressor in the game, we’re a different team,” Gipson said. “Sometimes, people can try to dissect the game and think something may need to be tweaked when maybe all that needs to happen is DeMarcus becomes the aggressor.

“If we’re in a game and DeMarcus Sharp has one or two attempts in the first half – it’s not because the defense did it – it’s because he decided to not take shots. What I’ll tell you is if DeMarcus Sharp has eight or 10 attempts in the first half, everything is going to be different.”

Sharp’s first nine games as a Demon bore that out.

In the first halves of those nine games, Sharp averaged 5.8 points per game. That number spiked to 10.9 points in the second halves in that timeframe, including Sharp’s consecutive 30-point games in wins at Stephen F. Austin and against Southern Miss in Prather Coliseum.

Sharp poured in 42 of his combined 66 points in the second halves of the wins against the Lumberjacks and Golden Eagles. The final two of those were on a step-back baseline jumper on Dec. 4 that knocked Southern Miss from the unbeaten ranks.

Sharp’s pattern of second-half scoring has been less prominent of a split in the Demons’ five conference games, but it remains.

Through NSU’s first five games in league play, Sharp is averaging 12.2 points per game – 5.8 in the first half and 6.4 after halftime.

Sharp managed just seven points at Nicholls this past Saturday, ending his streak of double-figure scoring performances at 16. Four of his seven points came in the second half in Thibodaux.

“I’m not an accolade person by any means, but DeMarcus Sharp was National Player of the Week because he took over games,” Gipson said. “He took over very high-level games. He was double- and triple-teamed. He hit the game-winning shot (against Southern Miss) with two guys hanging all on him.

“As you go through seasons, you go through mental seasons as well. Sometimes you can start to be more reserved and try to get more people involved. We’ll continue to evolve and the team will continue to evolve as he continues to be more aggressive between the lines. As he continues to draw more attention, it takes attention off everyone else. When he’s an aggressor, we’re a much better team.”

Photo Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services