Ja’Monta Black hosted quite a 22nd birthday party Thursday night in Prather Coliseum.
Northwestern State’s sharpshooting senior guard celebrated turning another year older by establishing one school record and tying another, leading the Demons to an 82-63 Southland Conference victory against Houston Christian.
Black, a 6-foot-4, 205-pounder, tied NSU’s single-game 3-point record, connecting on nine long-range shots that lifted his single-season total to 88 – two clear of Jalan West’s mark set in the 2014-15 season.
“I have the best teammates in America,” said Black, who entered the game third nationally in made 3-pointers. “I couldn’t do anything I do it without them. I couldn’t do anything I do without my teammates, my brothers.”
The reigning Southland Conference Player of the Week, Black had 14 of his game-high 31 points in the first half and hit five of his nine 3s in the second half. After tying Kenny McMilllon’s mark he set against Texas-San Antonio on Feb. 20, 1993 with a pullup 3 with 9:54 to play, Black had two potential record-breaking 3-pointers rattle out.
Black’s hot shooting helped the Demons (13-8, 5-3) build a nine-point lead with 8:18 to play in the first half before Houston Christian (7-14, 4-4) tied the game at 26 on a pair of Bonke Maring free throws.
The tie lasted less than a minute as Emareyon McDonald buried 3-pointers on consecutive possessions 37 seconds apart to give the Demons a lead they never relinquished.
Part of that was because of Black’s third 31-point game of the season and second in the past three while another key was slowing the Huskies’ inside attack, led by Maring, who had 15 first-half points.
Maring finished with 21 points after managing just five field goal attempts in the second half as the Demons made a more concentrated effort to pressure the perimeter and eliminate passes to the HCU center.
“We always tell our guys, ‘When you communicate, you’re faster,’” head coach Corey Gipson said. “The communication was unbelievable. That allowed our guys to make sure they were assignment correct on the defensive side of the ball. We were flying around. We were talking. We were touching and taking. Those type of things make a difference.”
The Demons limited Houston Christian to 36 percent shooting from the field, more than 10 percentage points below their season average of 46.9 percent, which led the Southland entering the game.
The Huskies kept things close in the first half by sinking 11 of 14 free throws, part of a 25-for-37 night at the line. Northwestern State held the Huskies to 9-for-25 shooting from the field in each half.
Highlighted by Black’s record-setting 3 at the 12:03 mark, the Demons broke from halftime with a 24-9 run across the first 9:14 of the second half to effectively put the game away. The Demons’ lead grew to as much as 25 on Cedric Garrett’s 3-pointer with 6:10 to play.
Black’s hot shooting put the Demons in position to rest their rotation players as several NSU players earned or tied season highs in minutes.
Among them was Hansel Enmanuel, who added to his growing highlight reel with a pair of dunks including a backside follow slam off a DeMarcus Sharp miss with 12:33 to play.
Enmanuel finished with four points, three rebounds and a block in 17 minutes of action, more than doubling his previous career high of eight.
“I had to keep working,” Enmanuel said. “I had to take care of my teammates. We are a family. They are helping me get better and keep going.”
Enmanuel’s second dunk came off a beautiful feed from Harrison Black, who later scored his first career points off a pass from Enmanuel.
Harrison Black joined Karlin Hardy as Demon reserves who equaled their season high in minutes played. Harrison Black’s bucket, a free-throw line jumper, drew almost as much of a response from the NSU bench as Ja’Monta Black’s parade of 3-pointers.
“We’ve got a great group of guys, great leaders,” Harrison Black said. “Ja’Monta, Sharp, they’ve been great leaders since Day One. Them supporting us when we’re out there like we support them, you can’t be any better than that.”
The Demons return to action Saturday, hosting Lamar. Tipoff is set for 3:30 p.m. inside Prather Coliseum.
Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services