At home on the road, NSU heads to UIW

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Following each victory away from home this season, the Northwestern State basketball team has taken a postgame picture dubbed the “Road Warrior” photo.

It has been an appropriate symbol for a team that already has collected 10 total road and neutral-site victories this season.

The Demons have two more chances for regular-season road wins – and thus postgame pictures – starting Thursday with a Southland Conference matchup at UIW. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and the game will air on ESPN+. Free streaming audio is available on and through the Northwestern State Athletics mobile app, which can be downloaded free for Apple and Android devices.

“We’re always intrigued to get on the road,” first-year head coach Corey Gipson said. “Personally, I like playing road games more than home games. I think when you’re able to get on the road, you get in the confines of the hotel and you’re able to uniform. I like the mind-set we get on the road. I think we’ve played our best ball on the road this year.”

The Demons (19-9, 11-4) have gone 9-6 in true road games, including a 5-2 mark in Southland play away from home. The Demons have won five straight conference road games, including double-figure wins at Southeastern, New Orleans and Houston Christian.

NSU showed its late-game mettle on the road, hanging on for a four-point win at Lamar on Feb. 4 and a six-point win a week later at Texas A&M-Commerce.

Statistics back up Gipson’s assertion – especially in conference play.

In their seven conference road games, the Demons have shot 49 percent from the field — 40.3 percent from 3-point range – and are averaging 81.9 points per game. Their assist numbers are up (15 per game) and their turnover totals are down (11.1 per game). The 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio on the road in Southland play tops NSU’s 1.1. mark for the season.

The combination of DeMarcus Sharp and Isaac Haney have pushed the latter number, combining for 67 assists while committing just 23 turnovers, a near 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover mark.

The Demons’ final regular-season road trip begins with an unfamiliar face.

Despite having played 83.3 percent of their Southland Conference schedule, the Demons have yet to see UIW. NSU will see the Cardinals twice in the next six days, concluding the regular season by hosting UIW on March 1.

That said, the Cardinals (11-17, 5-10) are not totally unfamiliar to Gipson and his team. The same can be said about their leading scorer, Jonathan Cisse, who signed with Northwestern State ahead of the 2021-22 season but played that year at Indian River State College in Florida.

Cisse enters the matchup with the Demons as the No. 6 scorer in the Southland, averaging 16 points per game.

“With the way we scout, we have seen them consistently because we have to watch upcoming opponents when we break down personnel and our scout detail,” Gipson said. “We’ve seen them. We just haven’t felt them physically. Our upcoming opponents have very good basketball clubs. They have great coaching staffs. They’ll be well prepared, but we have to continue to focus on ourselves.”