COMMERCE, Texas – DeMarcus Sharp has three Southland Conference Player of the Week awards already this season.
He may have topped those lofty standards Thursday night.
Sharp, Northwestern State’s 6-foot-3 senior point guard, again filled the stat sheet and played a critical role in extending the Demons’ win streak to seven with an 88-82 Southland Conference victory at Texas A&M-Commerce in The Field House.
“I feel like, from here on out, every night is going to be one of those nights because everybody’s viewing us as that team, and we have to come out with a different kind of energy,” said Sharp, who finished with a career-high 35 points, seven rebounds and six assists. “We have to let people know we’re not messing around, and we’re going to continue to be aggressive.”
Sharp was equal parts aggressive and efficient as the Demons (17-8, 9-3) weathered a back-and-forth second half to clinch a winning Southland Conference road record with their fifth conference win away from Prather Coliseum.
After NSU carried a one-point lead into halftime, Sharp truly went to work, scoring the Demons’ first 12 points of the half and then assisted on the next two points, a Jalen Hampton layup.
Northwestern State needed each one of Sharp’s 23 second-half points as the homestanding Lions (11-14, 7-4) shot 54.8 percent from the field in the second half. Neither team built more than a three-point lead for the first 11:47 of the second half until Ja’Monta Black’s first 3-pointer of the game at the 8:13 mark doubled NSU’s lead to six.
Less than two minutes later, Sharp sparked a seemingly decisive 10-0 spurt that included key 3s from Black and Isaac Haney, who hit all four of their combined 3-pointers in the second half.
“That’s a great team we just played against,” said Black, who finished with 17 points while playing all 40 minutes. “They were in contention for first place too. (Sharp) offensively put the team on his back tonight. There’s going to be nights like that because he’s definitely capable of doing that.”
Sharp was an efficient 15-for-22 from the field, hitting his lone 3-point try, sparking the Demons’ second-best shooting game of the season (56.9 percent). With his ability to slip into the paint or find cutters for easy baskets, Sharp helped the Demons outscore the taller Lions 46-38 in the paint.
While the Demons built the game’s first double-figure lead late in the second half, the Lions were undaunted, fittingly for a game that featured 23 lead changes – 16 in the second half.
Texas A&M-Commerce already had four wins in which it had trailed by double figures, and the Lions made a push to add to that total Thursday night, ripping off an 8-0 surge in 1:36 following Black’s run-capping 3-pointer at the 3:58 mark.
Ultimately, Sharp the playmaker helped snap the Lions’ run, feeding freshman Jalen Hampton for a layup to re-establish a nine-point Demon advantage.
Commerce continued to push, getting as close as four points twice in the final 12.7 seconds before Black hit four straight free throws in the final 10 seconds to close out the Demons’ 3-0 road trip.
“This was a tough one,” first-year head coach Corey Gipson said. “Our guys were resilient in their effort. Those guys were resilient, too. There was another game we played this year, I think it was at Southeastern, and I said in the interview, ‘I don’t know who deserved it.’ Both teams played extremely hard. Both teams were fundamentally sound. It went our way. I want to pay homage to them, but I’m very proud of our guys for the effort they put out.”
Sharp’s 35 points led the Demons, who got 17 from Black and 12 from Hampton to offset a career-high 25 points from Commerce’s JJ Romer Rosario. Demarcus Demonia added 19 for the Lions while Kalen Williams scored all 11 of his points in the second half.
The Demons return home Saturday for the rematch with Texas A&M-Commerce. Tipoff is set for 3:30 p.m. inside Prather Coliseum.