NATCHITOCHES – A frenetic defense helped the Northwestern State women’s basketball team build an early lead Wednesday night against Grambling.
Slowing things down offensively helped the Lady Demons bring home a win.
Northwestern State committed just five second-half turnovers and used efficient third-quarter offense to provide enough cushion for a 65-61 win against the visiting Tigers at Prather Coliseum.
“That was huge,” fourth-year head coach Jordan Dupuy said of limiting turnovers. “We had 12 in the first half, a lot of which were unforced. On the flip side, we turned them over 29 times. That’s what we needed to do, and we turned those into 26 points. I told the team after, we have so many areas we can improve on, but a win is a win and needs to be celebrated.”
The Lady Demons (3-4) entered Wednesday’s game ranked second nationally in turnovers forced (29.33) and 14th nationally in steals per game (15.5). They came up just shy in those categories (29, 15), but their ability to build off those miscues helped set up a fast start that saw the lead grow to 11 less than seven minutes into the game.
Tristen Washington’s fast-break layup put NSU up 18-7 at the 3:04 mark of the opening quarter before Grambling (1-6) closed the quarter on a 9-2 run.
Washington, a freshman point guard making her first career start, finished with eight points and handed out a game-high six assists. Three of those came on inbounds passes to junior forward Leilani Moncrease, who turned those catch-and-shoot jumpers into a career-high 10 points.
Before connecting on half of her 10 field goal attempts Wednesday, Moncrease had tallied 14 points before nearly matching that total in 21 minutes of action against Grambling.
“I had a rough couple of games, but once I got into the groove and learned the tempo of the game, I started to adjust,” said Moncrease, a transfer from Diablo Valley College. “(Catch-and-shoot shots) was what I specialized in at my last school. All the credit goes to Tristen for finding me.”
The Washington-Moncrease connection brought a smile to Dupuy’s face as did the Lady Demons’ third-quarter performance.
Building on an 8-0 run to end the first half, Northwestern State survived a back-and-forth start of the quarter to finish with another strong closing kick, holding the Tigers scoreless for the final 3:58 of the third quarter, building a 14-point lead as Jasmyn Johnson scored the final four points of the quarter.
Johnson paced three Lady Demons in double figures with a season-best 18 points and led the NSU defensive effort with six steals, continuing a Prather Coliseum trend for the senior guard. Johnson has collected at least three steals in each of NSU’s five home games this season, averaging four per game.
“I just feel like I have a knack for the ball,” she said. “I see it, I want it, and I get it.”
NSU’s 14-point advantage after three quarters never was in much doubt in the final quarter. Grambling whittled the lead to five with 4:13 to play before NSU again turned stingy.
While the Lady Demons’ offense scuffled down the stretch, their defense answered, holding the Tigers without a field goal from the 4:13 mark until Candice Parramore’s 3-pointer with 8 seconds to play. In between, Washington, Johnson and Kira Bonner (15) knocked down six free throws to keep Grambling at arm’s length.
“Give the players all the credit,” Dupuy said. “We created some competition in practice this past week, and it showed. There wasn’t a loose ball where we didn’t have two or three white shirts on the floor. Our posts played physical. Our guards played physical. We had some fouls, but you can live with them because we played hard. We made strides in the right direction, but we still have a ways to go.”
The Lady Demons will have an 11-day break between games, allowing for fall semester finals, before heading to Arkansas to face the Razorbacks on Dec. 15.