NATCHITOCHES – In a game reminiscent of the one less than a week ago, Northwestern State and UIW went toe-to-toe for the better part of the night. Unfortunately for NSU things ended in a similar fashion in a 79-60 loss to end the regular season.
Despite the tough loss in the home final, the Lady Demons (11-17, 7-11) still earned a spot in next week’s Southland Conference Tournament and will enter as the No. 8 seed set to take on the No. 5 seed Texas A&M-Commerce in the opening game of the week at 11 a.m. from the Legacy Center in Lake Charles, La.
“I think this group is a really good group and can be a really great basketball team when we’re playing the right way and playing for 40 minutes,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “We’re going to do a lot of scouting and film work, have some great practices and go to what matters most and that’s March basketball.”
Just like the game a week ago in San Antonio, little to nothing separated the two teams from each other through the first 20 minutes of the game.
NSU got the hot start it wanted with a game-opening 3-pointer from Sharna Ayres and another from Candice Parramore four possessions later. Parramore’s first triple of the game started an early 9-0 run for the Demons, fueled by back-to-back takeaways from the Demon defense putting NSU up 13-7 midway through the quarter.
The Cardinals maintained their recent success from beyond the arc, going on a spree at the end of the quarter making three straight deep balls to erase the NSU lead and send the teams to the second tied at 20.
By the second quarter media timeout the two teams had the same total rebounds, assists, made field goals and made 3-pointers and were locked in a back-and-forth battle in one of the best halves of basketball by both teams of the entire season.
The flow of the game stalled out a bit near the end of the second quarter however as a string of foul calls and free throws dominated the final three minutes of the half. That was where the Cardinals began to pull away ever so slightly.
Neither team made a field goal over the final three minutes of the quarter but thanks to two more trips to the line for UIW than for NSU, the Cardinals were able to take a 40-36 lead into the break. UIW went 7-for-8 from the stripe down the stretch while the Demons were 4-for-4.
The Cardinals built their largest lead of the third quarter, nine points, on the back of two straight 3-pointers early in the third quarter. After UIW answered an Alecia Whyte layup that pushed the lead back to nine, the Demons made its best run of the quarter to climb right back into the game.
Bengisu Alper dropped in a layup to start the 7-2 run where the Demons held UIW without a field goal for five straight minutes. Alper ended the stretch with a perfect bounce pass to Kayla Hampton under the basket for the easy layup that cut the lead down to two possessions at 50-46 with 2:27 to go in the third.
The Cardinals broke their field goal drought with a 3-pointer and got another layup after an NSU miss to push the lead right back to nine in less than 30 seconds. NSU went the final 2:27 without a point and trailed 55-46 going to the fourth.
After growing the lead to double digits with a pair of early free throws, the Demons were able to cut it to single digits three times, the second coming on a pair of Whyte free throws with 7:55 to go that made it a 57-50 game, the closest it would get in the final eight minutes.
The Cardinals answered with a jumper and started a 10-2 run spanning the next three-plus minutes, the dagger coming on UIW’s ninth 3-pointer of the game and an And-1 bucket right before the media timeout that occurred on back-to-back possessions.
“I think it came down to two things tonight,” Nimz said. “I think UIW wanted it more. I don’t think collectively we all wanted it and at the end of the day that comes back on me. I’ve got to figure out a way to inspire, motivate, correct, curb put us in a better situation. We got a handful of open shots we just weren’t able to connect on them.”
In her final game inside Prather Coliseum, Parramore recorded her 12th 20-point game in an NSU jersey to lead all scorers. It was the 12th straight double-digit scoring effort to end the season for the two-year starter and the 30th time she led the Demons in scoring in her NSU career.
Whyte also finished in double figures with 10 points and Joelle Johnson had seven points with a team-best eight rebounds.