COMMERCE, Texas – The story unfortunately remained the same for Northwestern State on Thursday night as another lusterless start led to a big halftime deficit that it was unable to recover from in a 67-47 loss to Texas A&M-Commerce.
The Lady Demons (9-13, 5-7) shot 24 percent from the field in the first half, falling behind by 15 after the first 20 minutes of play. A 40 percent clip in the second half, behind a career effort from Sharna Ayres, fulfilled the same storyline as the previous two games.
“We have to stop talking about it and be about it,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “We have to show up and commit to making corrections and commit to making changes. We are a great basketball team with great players.”
An end-to-end first quarter made for a fast paced first 10 minutes that included just three combined foul calls as the Lions (10-13, 8-3) got out in transition to create early open looks.
NSU scored on back-to-back possessions midway through the quarter getting the second of Ayres’ deep shots in the quarter followed by a Jasmin Dixon layup that put the Demons up 10-9 with 3:51 remaining in the quarter.
A pair of fastbreak buckets for the Lions in two of their next three possessions put them ahead for good and started the 11-2 run that ended the opening quarter.
The Demons had two separate field goal droughts of longer than three minutes in the second quarter, that left the improved defense and adjustment to the Lions’ transition without much offensive support in order to close the gap.
If not for an Alecia Whyte jumper with 42 seconds remaining in the half, NSU would have gone the final four minutes without a point as the Lions stretched their lead to 35-20 with seven late points in a row.
As they did in the previous two games, the Demons came out with a renewed urgency in the third quarter and rode the hot hand to chip away at the big lead.
Down as much as 21 early in the third, the Demons found a hot stretch on the left arm of Ayres. After Candice Parramore scored on back-to-back possessions and the Lions went cold on the offensive end, the Aussie southpaw made four 3-pointers in the final five minutes of the quarter on four shot attempts.
Her hot streak gave her a new career high with seven made 3-pointers in a game, accounting for all 21 of her career high points in the game. Ayres finished the night going 7-for-9 from the field, all from beyond the arc.
“I’m really happy to see Sharna show up today and do something that we’ve been talking about for a while,” Nimz said. “She proves how great of a shooter she is day in and day out at practice and in individual work outs. I rephrased it to her this week as ‘do your job’ and I am so happy to see her do her job tonight.
“This is something that she’s capable of nearly every single night and if she’s not shooting 15 shots a night she’s not doing her job. She showed up and did her job tonight and excelled at it too.”
The third and fourth triples of the stretch cut the lead down to 12 each time, but each time Commerce produced an answer on the offensive end and held the same 15-point edge it began the quarter with entering the fourth.
NSU made one more push to cut the lead to single digits early in the fourth when Parramore scored on two straight possessions once again, knocking down the only other 3-pointer in the game not made by Ayres, and driving in for a layup to make it 56-45 with 6:18 to go.
Commerce once again found an answer and following the media timeout a minute later, settled and more Demon thoughts of a comeback with points on three straight possessions to stretch the lead back to 18.
For the fifth straight game NSU produced a 20-point scorer with the first of Ayres’ career. She is the fourth different player to reach the mark in the past five games. Parramore also finished in double figures with 12 points and the Demons nearly had a pair of double-digit rebound performances with Dixon’s 11 and Joelle Johnson pulling in nine.