The task is simple for Northwestern State as it enters the final regular season game of the year – win and you’re in.
Do that and the Lady Demons (11-16, 7-10) secure one of the final three spots in the tournament bracket that four teams will battle for on the final day of the season.
The exact seed NSU receives with a victory, six or seven, will depend on the result of the McNeese/UNO game, but either way will send NSU into a first-round tournament matchup with the winner of that game.
“We’re not worried or talking about the ifs, ands or buts,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “We’re focused on Wednesday, showing up and getting a quick start and being relentless on the boards. There’s a lot of, if this team does this and this one does that, but I prefer to take our fate into our own hands and not worry about any situation with anybody else.”
Tipoff for Wednesday’s finale against one of the hottest teams in the conference UIW (14-13, 9-8) is set for 5:30 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN+. Tickets for the game are available by visiting www.nsutickets.com.
NSU played tight with the Cardinals less than a week ago in San Antonio, with the game sitting at two possessions for more than 30 minutes of game time. A fourth-quarter scoring drought from the Demons allowed UIW to put enough distance between the teams to secure the win. Something that Nimz is keenly aware of as NSU enters the rematch.
“We were tied at half time and came out a little slow from the locker room in the third quarter and gave up six quick points there,” she said. “So it’s making sure that we capitalize on our defensive efforts throughout the entire course of the game don’t have those scoring droughts either.”
Down by six with just over four minutes to go, NSU went more than three minutes without a point and three and a half minutes without a field goal that allowed UIW to stretch the lead to double figures and essentially ice seal the win. NSU had just one turnover during the final four minutes of the game, but three straight possessions ended with two layups and a 3-pointer for the Cardinals.
The things that went wrong for the Demons during that stretch, and the ones that went right during the other 35 minutes of the game are fresh on the minds of the team as they enter the pressure-packed finale.
“Obviously, the scout is fresh and what the players were able to accomplish, where we had success and where we had failures,” Nimz said. “It’s right there on the forefront of our minds so we’re able to bring it back up and it resonates a little better when you’re watching film. It’s still about focusing and focusing on us. Finding that consistency, whether it’s in the last conference game or not, that’s fine with me as long as we get there.”
UIW enters the game having won five straight to not only clinch its spot in the tournament but also put itself in a position to secure a first-round bye and spot in the quarterfinals.
The Cardinals would earn the No. 4 seed in the bracket if it beat NSU on Wednesday, a tough task in itself as the Demons are 10-3 this season inside Prather Coliseum, and see Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, who is battling for a regular season title, take down Texas A&M-Commerce.
Plenty of things on the line for both teams in the final game of the season, and on the first day of March, basketball fans wouldn’t have it any other way.