NATCHITOCHES – Perhaps the Demons should warm up in the dark.
After a power outage swept across parts of Natchitoches to delay Saturday’s game by nearly 90 minutes, Northwestern State surged early to handle Southeastern in a 79-61 win.
The Demons (9-15, 8-5 SLC) turned SLU’s missed shots and turnovers into instant offense in a 19-5 start that stretched into a continuous run throughout NSU’s 43-21 first-half domination.
“It was quite a run, and we came out and did a really good job,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy. “We did a remarkable job on the boards.
“Defensively, we got up in the passing lanes and took (SLU) out of their offense. It almost looked like what happened to us (Wednesday against Stephen F. Austin). I’m really proud of the guys because they responded from a very disappointing second half vs. SFA.”
In the first surge, NSU cashed in six SLU turnovers into nine points and added four second-chance points as the Demons flexed their muscles inside for the 14-point edge.
Massner scored six of his 13 first-half points in that early stretch, which included an alley-oop from LaTerrance Reed.
The junior added to his highlight reel with a fade-away 3-pointer that propelled NSU’s advantage to 33-14. Massner finished with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting with eight rebounds, leading the team in both categories.
“Nothing surprises me anymore this year,” Massner said of the power outage. “You have 15 minutes to warm up, and I don’t like to overthink things, so I don’t think it affects me very much.
“When you can get out in transition and score easy buckets early, it loosens up their defense. It makes it easier to shoot from the outside and getting the bigs the ball. We got some easy ones early, and it made it a lot easier.”
Eight different Demons scored in the first half as NSU scorched the nets at 59 percent. Four different Demons made a 3-pointer.
NSU stifled SLU’s offense at 29 percent shooting in the first half, forced eight turnovers (11 points off turnovers) and blocked three shots (all Jamaure Gregg).
“Last year with the power outage (in Hammond), Southeastern jumped out on us, so this time, we jumped out on them,” said Gregg, who added 10 points and four rebounds. “We knew Southeastern was smaller, and we didn’t think they could guard us inside the paint. We wanted to go inside-out to set up our shooters.
“After our loss against (Stephen F. Austin), we practiced with a lot more energy, and that carried over to today.”
Unlike the team’s first meeting in which SLU erased a 21-point lead in an NSU win, the Demons weren’t relinquishing their 22-point halftime edge.
The advantage stretched to as many as 31 points before a sloppy final 10 minutes allowed the Lions to shave the lead under 20.
Four Demons reached double figures as Carvell Teasett (12 points, 3-of-5 3-point shooting) and Larry Owens (10 points, six rebounds) joined Massner and Gregg.
NSU completes the sweep of Southeastern one year after the Lions won a pair, which included an SLU win in Hammond after a lengthy mid-game power outage.
The first win against SLU this season started a six-game win streak before Wednesday’s loss to SFA. But those six wins came by a combined 27 points as the Demons gutted out close contests.
NSU’s 18-point victory margin is the largest against a Division I opponent this season.
“A lot of it had to do with our defensive intensity and our rebounding early,” McConathy said. “Massner’s rebounding early ignited us to get going.”
The victory tightens NSU’s grip on the No. 4 seed, and it’s first-round bye, in the Southland Conference Tournament.
The Demons have nine more points (three points per win) than chasers UNO and UIW in the new points system implemented because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
NSU has three games in the regular season’s final week and would secure the No. 4 seed with one more victory.
The Demons opened the door to catch the league’s top three teams as Nicholls, Abilene Christian and Sam Houston each have 11 wins before Saturday’s results.
NSU heads to Nicholls on Monday in a must-win if the Demons are to climb higher than the No. 4 seed.
“To get a bye (top four seeds) is really important when you play six games in two weeks,” McConathy said. “The reason this game was so big today is that you had to win at home after you got beat Wednesday.
“It gives you momentum heading into two straight road games.”
PHOTO CUTLINE: Trenton Massner led the team with 15 points and eight rebounds in NSU’s 79-61 win against Southeastern on Saturday.
CREDIT: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services