NATCHITOCHES – Despite a better effort all around than the first time meeting a month ago and a plus-10 rebounding margin, Northwestern State fell to rival Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday night 61-45.
For the second time this season the Lady Demons (7-19, 4-13) had 10 or more rebounds than their opponent, but the steady and efficient Ladyjack (21-5, 14-3) offense, along with stellar post play, proved good enough to cruise to another win.
“We wanted to come out on top,” interim head coach Aaron Swinson said. “Moral victories are what they are but we came up short tonight. I know we can give more effort.
“Our game plan was what it was. We lost by 49 at their place earlier this season so we comer here and tried to slow down the tempo a little bit and defend inside because they were doing a really good job of getting the ball inside last time. At the end of the day we wanted to make sure we played hard and played together.”
The game plan for the Ladyjacks was clear from the outset – get the ball inside to Aiyana Johnson. The 6-foot-3 forward scored three of the first six field goals of the game for SFA before getting into some early foul trouble.
She gave the visitors an 11-6 lead at the midway point of the opening quarter before heading to the bench. NSU wasn’t able to take advantage of her absence from the floor scoring just three points the rest of the way. Fortunately the game was still close as SFA managed just five to take the 16-9 lead into the second period.
NSU made it within five on two occasions early in the second on a layup from Lacee Savage to start the quarter and a 3-pointer from Gabby Bell to answer an SFA trey on the previous possession.
The lead swelled to double digits however by the end of the half until Bell hit a running shot at the buzzer ending a low scoring first half and make it a 28-20 affair.
While the Ladyjacks weren’t lighting up the scoreboard like they had in the first meeting in Nacogdoches, the Lady Demons once again struggled to find their rhythm on offense.
NSU went 7-for-28 in the middle two quarters of the game, allowing Stephen F. Austin to build a 16-point lead by the end of the third quarter. The lead ballooned to its largest of 23 by the four-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
“Those layups we missed really hurt us and the momentum we could have had,” Swinson said. “Allowing them to get the ball inside where there was no weak side help hurt us too. When they started scoring we weren’t able to answer it and that hurts the flow of what we’re trying to do.”
Johnson was able to assert herself even more in the second half finishing a perfect 8-for-8 shooting performance from the field, all inside the paint.
The loss, along with Nicholls’ win, all but ends the Lady Demons’ hopes of making the Southland Conference tournament this season.
“We’re going to approach tomorrow like we always do,” Swinson said. “We’re going to approach Friday like we always do and we’re going to approach the game Saturdya like we always do. Regardless if we are in the running or not we’re still going to compete with these teams.”
NSU plays its final three games of the season on the road beginning Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Southeastern Louisiana.
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