RUSTON – There is a bit of a post-holiday reunion feel to the Northwestern State men’s basketball team’s appearance in the Louisiana Tech Classic this weekend.
Beginning with Saturday’s 3 p.m. matchup against former Southland Conference rival UT Arlington, the two-day multi-team event is filled with storylines that tie the Demons to both of their opponents.
In addition to Saturday’s game, the Demons will conclude their back-to-back playing dates with a 1 p.m matchup against the host Bulldogs on Sunday. Both games can be heard on 95.9 FM Kix Country in Natchitoches and on www.NSUDemons.com and the Northwestern State Athletics mobile app. Patrick Netherton, in his 17th season, will have the call of both games.
“It’s a great opportunity to play against what were rivals for a long time,” said coach Mike McConathy, a Louisiana Tech Hall of Famer who ended his career as the school’s No. 2 all-time scorer. “College athletics really thrives on rivalries. To be able to reunite and play against former rivals is great, especially when you can play within 75 miles of Natchitoches.”
The second road trip of the early season for the Demons (0-1) will be a much shorter one than the sojourn that took them to Lubbock, Texas, for Wednesday night’s season opener against No. 14 Texas Tech.
It also brings them full circle against a pair of opponents who have been absent from the Demons’ schedules for the past few seasons.
NSU has not faced UT Arlington since the 2011-12 season, the Mavericks’ final Southland Conference campaign. The Demons and Bulldogs have not played since the 2014-15 season, which ended a six-year run of games between the in-state foes.
UT Arlington (0-1) and Louisiana Tech (0-0) met in the opener of the Louisiana Tech Classic on Friday night. The Mavericks dropped their season opener to Oklahoma State, 75-68, on Wednesday.
While the Demons and Mavericks met 51 times between the 1972-73 and 2011-12 seasons, Northwestern State and Louisiana Tech share a much deeper bond.
The Demons and Bulldogs have met 157 times in a series that dates to the 1915-16 season, and NSU’s roster features both players and coaches who have ties to the Ruston school.
Both McConathy and assistant coach Dave Simmons played at Louisiana Tech while senior guard Jairus Roberson’s father was one of Simmons’ teammates as a Bulldog.
As McConathy pointed out, none of the three played in the Thomas Assembly Center, the site of this weekend’s event, but that detail matters little to Roberson, who scored seven points in Wednesday’s loss at Texas Tech.
“It doesn’t matter that it’s not the same gym (my father played in),” said Roberson, whose nickname “Slim” was partially derived from his father’s “Big Slim” moniker. “It’s still the same school. The name across the chest is the game. I can’t wait to see him and to see them.”
Simmons and Roberson have connected through stories of the younger Roberson’s father, Kenneth, and their similarities and differences.
“Every day, coach Simmons has something to say about my dad – how he played, how I play,” Roberson said. “He says the only thing we have the same is our energy and our effort. I’m a way better shooter, but he has me on straight athleticism and shot blocking, but that’s all because of genetics.”