NATCHITOCHES – A pair of second half scoring droughts proved too costly for Northwestern State in their season opening 68-55 loss to ULM on Saturday afternoon.
The Lady Demons erased an early 13-point deficit to take the lead at halftime, but a pair of three-plus minute scoreless stretches at the end of the third and fourth quarters kept the game just out of reach.
“At the beginning they really stuck to the game plan,” first-year head coach Anna Nimz said. “We got down and my biggest thing was seeing how they were going to react. I thought they proved to be resilient in that.
“They competed and ran the scout. We rebounded well and hit some good shots. This is a game where we have a lot of things that we can grow from.”
The Lady Demons got off to a slow start offensively but only found themselves down by handful four minutes into the game. Sophomore Anessa Dussette scored the first points of the season for NSU with her 3-ball at the 5:50 mark of the first.
ULM went on a 13-2 run building its biggest lead of the game of 18-5 with two and a half minutes left in the opening quarter. The Lady Demons finished the quarter with an 8-1 stretch onh a pair of layups from Julia Sion and a long ball from Alexia Marsh.
After a late steal, Makayla VanNett’s open 3 rimmed out at the buzzer and the Lady Demons trailed 19-13 at the end of one.
NSU started hot in the second.
Long balls from VanNett and Tristen Washington ripped the net and a 3-point play from VanNett moments later pulled NSU within a point at 23-22. The Lady Demons took their first lead of the day on the next possession as Dussette knocked home a 3 and followed with another jumper, swinging the score in NSU’s favor 27-23.
Neither team was able to maintain an offensive rhythm for the backend of the second quarter, combining to go four-plus minutes without converting a field goal. ULM took the lead with four good free throws during the stretch, but an Erin Harris 3-pointer made it a one-point game with two minutes left.
NSU finished the quarter with a 7-4 advantage capped off by Washington’s driving, left hand layup as the buzzer sounded that sent the Lady Demons to the half with a slim 34-33 lead.
The teams traded that lead three times in the early part of the second half before the Warhawks created some space with a 6-0 outburst. Harris answered with another long ball at the midway point of the quarter and followed with a jumper on the next possession to cut the lead back down to one.
Her shot would be the last good one for the Lady Demons in the quarter, failing to convert on the next six attempts allowing ULM to build a 51-44 lead going into the fourth.
Needing a spark to start the final 10-minute period, Dussette scored on back-to-back shots in the opening minute making it a two possession game. The first of two three-minute scoreless stretches stymied any momentum until a quick burst by Dussette and Washington pulled NSU close at 59-55 with 3:22 remaining.
A pair of turnovers and a missed long ball on the next three possessions ran too much time off the clock and forced the Lady Demons to try and extend the game with fouls. With a six-point lead the Warhawks went 7-of-8 down the stretch from the line to secure the win.
Dussette led the Lady Demons with a career-high 16 points, adding seven rebounds to her line. Washington was the only other Lady Demon to reach double figures, tallying 10 points on the night.
Five of the six Lady Demon newcomers scored their first points in an NSU uniform with Harris and Marsh leading the group with eight points each.
“At a certain point I think everybody kind of found their position and settled into it,” Nimz said. “Everybody that played a minute did something positive. That’s definitely something that we can look for and look to grow.”