Northwestern State got strong opening quarters or halves in each of its five straight home win entering Thursday’s game against Southeastern. There would not be a sixth as the offense limped through the second quarter leading to a deficit it could not recover from in a 65-50 loss.
After a passable first quarter that included eight turnovers but a plus-five rebounding margin leading to just a one-point difference in the score, the Lady Demons (10-14, 6-8) went 2-for-14 from the field in the second including a string of 10 straight missed field goals. The drought allowed the Lady Lions (16-8, 11-3) to build a near 20-point lead by half time and never look back.
“We just didn’t come out,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “That’s something that we’ve been doing pretty well here at home. First quarter was ok, but we just didn’t have the collective fight and energy for 40 minutes. Good teams make you pay for playing bad or not showing up and Southeastern is a good team and they absolutely made us pay.”
NSU scored the first five points of the game getting a 3-pointer from Sharna Ayres on her first attempt of the game and a pair of free throws from Karmelah Dean. Combined with a couple of good defensive stops early on and it appeared as if NSU was poised for another home performance.
The turnovers however began to mount from that point on, committing eight in the first quarter thanks to forced passes to tight or non-existent windows.
The Lions took the lead with an 8-0 run near the mid-point of the first quarter, moving ahead with back-to-back layups created in transition with players getting behind the defense. The stretch at the end of the first was just the start of a much larger, game-defining stretch for the Demons.
From the 5:02 mark of the first quarter where NSU led 9-4 as the Lions went to the free throw line until the end of the first half Southeastern outscored the Demons 31-7. The stretch in the second quarter that saw NSU miss 10 straight field goals included an 18-0 run for the Lions where they made 5-of-7 from the field. The Lions also connected on 5-of-6 shots from beyond the arc, more makes and attempts than they had in the other three quarters combined.
While the Demons were unable to erase the 19-point halftime deficit, they did outscore Southeastern in the second half 34-30 and shoot 44 percent from the field.
The Demon defense forced the Lions into a cold spell to end the third quarter to help NSU finish with seven of the final 11 points of the quarter as SLU went 1-for-10 from the floor to close the period.
Joelle Johnson made a pair of layups, the second with an added free throw after a foul, to end the third. Candice Parramore scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, getting a handful of driving layups to fall and earning her way to the free throw line where she went 4-for-4.
The Demons went 8-for-15 from the field in the final 10 minutes of the game.
“The shots that we saw down the stretch in the fourth quarter were the same ones that were open all game but we were forcing stuff early,” Nimz said. “We tried to force in inside religiously who was not open but we had other things available to us but we weren’t locked in on that.”
The loss drops NSU into a four-way tie with UIW, HCU and McNeese for the final four tournament spots in the bracket with four games remaining in the season. Saturday’s opponent New Orleans sits one game behind the quarter as the first team out of the tournament.
“We’ve got to bounce back from this one, wear it, turn the page and focus in on New Orleans. We have to come out locked in for 40 minutes against an incredibly athletic and feisty team that has gotten better every single time out.”