Demons’ second-half push not enough against former conference foe UT Arlington

RUSTON – The offense the Northwestern State men’s basketball team expected to produce showed up in the second half Saturday afternoon against UT Arlington.

It just was not enough to overcome a sluggish first half performance as the Demons dropped their second straight game to open the season, falling 80-71 to their former Southland Conference rivals in the Louisiana Tech Classic at the Thomas Assembly Center.

“We’re making progress,” said head coach Mike McConathy. “I told the guys we were better today than we were Wednesday. We played better basketball and had some great moments, but our offensive flow has got to be there. We had seven turnovers in the first half, but then we had nine second-half turnovers before you turned your head around.”

After shooting just 32.6 percent in the first half and trailing by as much as 14 points, the Demons (0-2) woke up offensively midway through the second half.

Finding its stroke from 3-point range, Northwestern State whittled a 16-point UTA (1-1) second-half lead to four on a Jairus Roberson 3-pointer with 8:09 to play. Roberson’s triple capped an 11-0 run across 2:24 of the second half.

In that run, Jovan Zelenbaba, LaTerrance Reed and Roberson all connected on 3-pointers as Northwestern State pulled within four points for the first time since a 9-0 run sliced UTA’s lead to 28-24 with 6:57 to play in the first half.

Teasett and fellow freshman Kendal Coleman provided the Demons with plenty of good moments.

Teasett had all nine of his points in the first half, producing all but two of the Demons’ points in an 11-2 run that pulled NSU to within two possessions.

Coleman, meanwhile, produced a double-figure rebounding game for the second time in as many games, pulling down a team-high 11 boards and delivered his first career assist to set up Roberson’s 3 that cut the Mavericks’ lead to four.

“Did Kendal Coleman not impress the heck of you?” McConathy asked rhetorically. “He is just learning how to play, learning what we’re doing. He’s going to be an unbelievable player. He makes me want to get up a little earlier. He has such great potential.

“Carvell came in a did a great job, but he can do even more than just that. He’s supposed to be a point guard, so he’s playing a little different role. He’s still learning as well.”

Despite those efforts and a trio of double-figure scorers led by Roberson and Trenton Massner’s 15 points, the Demons were unable to cut the game to a one-possession lead.

In the first half, it was largely because UTA shot 50 percent from the field, hitting 18 of 36 shots. While the Demons cranked up the defense in the second half, holding the Mavericks to 33.3-percent shooting, the Mavericks picked the right times to make the shots they did.

After Roberson’s run-ending 3, the Mavericks answered with a free throw and a Patrick Mwamba 3 to re-establish a 10-point cushion. UTA pushed the lead to 12 with 4:21 to play before the Demons struck back with a 5-0 spurt that cut the lead to seven – a number NSU could not eclipse in the final 2:56.

“We are finding ourselves, and we need to find our offensive flow,” McConathy said. “People will say, ‘Coach, you need to pick a group and go on.’ We’re trying to find that group. We have a lot of guys back, but we have some guys who didn’t play much last year. We’ve had a couple of slow starts from guys we were counting on to have fast starts, but I’m really pleased with the guys.”

The Demons have a quick turnaround as they will face multi-team event host Louisiana Tech at 1 p.m. Sunday to wrap up the Louisiana Tech Classic.