HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Northwestern State sliced Sam Houston State’s lead to five multiple times in the second half Wednesday, but the Bearkats relied on keen 3-point and free-throw shooting to hold off the Demons, 92-79, to open Southland Conference play.
The Demons (2-7, 0-1 SLC) came as close as 62-58 after one of two Gatdoar Kueth 3-pointers with 11:08 remaining and again sliced SHSU’s edge to five (69-64) with eight minutes left.
But the Bearkats had all the answers, responding with a 9-0 run to widen the gap and didn’t look back.
SHSU shot 12-of-27 from 3-point range with nine of those long-distance baskets directly answering NSU points.
“Sam Houston State is a well-coached, physical team, but we did some nice things tonight,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy. “We chipped away at the lead different parts of that game, but that run they had to get to 14 points was big.
“They nailed shots from the 3-point and free-throw line. We did create some uncertainty there in the second half, and we’re making progress.”
The Bearkats made all 16 free-throw attempts in the second half to slow NSU’s momentum, finishing the game 22-of-24.
NSU attempted more free throws (20-of-29) than its opponent for the second time this season, but key misses hindered the comeback.
Nikos Chougkaz and Trenton Massner had chances for three-point plays under the 10-minute mark that would have cut SHSU’s lead to four in both situations, but both missed free throws. Chougkaz scored eight points while Massner had four points and five rebounds to make positive impacts.
But the Demons traded blows with the Bearkats for much of the second half on the road against a team that won the Southland Conference regular-season title and were picked second in the preseason.
Sophomore Brian White led all scorers with 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting, while junior Chudier Bile added 17 points and a game-high seven rebounds.
Kueth scored a career-high 11 points after combining for 15 points in the first eight games.
“(Kueth) has a toughness about him, and I think we matched Sam Houston State tonight in that category,” said McConathy, whose team outrebounded SHSU until the final minutes, finishing at 35-31. The Demons outscored SHSU in the paint 32-22. “Brian played at a fine speed and attacked tonight.
“Our guys responded to playing someone in our conference, and I felt we played with effort even though we made some mistakes.”
NSU’s 49 percent from the field was its best since the opener against Centenary, but 19 Demons’ turnovers were turned into 17 Bearkats’ points. NSU also shot just 7-of-25 from long range. The Demons made its first nine two-point shots and made 19-of-28 from inside the arc.
In the first half, Kueth scored eight of his 11 points, including a 3-pointer that sliced SHSU’s lead to 28-26 with 5:36 remaining in the half.
But the Demons came no closer as SHSU scored nine of the next 11 points.
The Bearkats’ Demarkus Lampley scored 17 points to lead five SHSU players in double figures. He made 5-of-8 from distance.
NSU will return to Prather Coliseum for the first time in more than a month when the Demons host Lamar on Saturday. The Cardinals topped Southeastern in overtime on the road.
PHOTO CUTLINE: Brian White scored a game-high 18 points Wednesday in a 92-79 loss at Sam Houston State.
CREDIT: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services