NACOGDOCHES – Northwestern State’s defense allowed the Demons to hang around early Wednesday at Stephen F. Austin, but the Lumberjacks heated up and pulled away for a 90-59 win.
NSU (12-14, 9-8 Southland Conference) made two momentum-stopping 3-pointers in the first half, but SFA (25-3, 16-1 SLC) responded with next five points after each of those Demon buckets to build its lead.
Trailing 11-3, Jairus Roberson drained a 3-pointer before Oddyst Walker answered with his own deep ball on a mini 5-0 run.
Trenton Massner slowed SFA’s push with a 3-pointer that pulled NSU to within 23-14, but the Jacks responded with the next seven points, including a John Comeaux 3-pointer to answer Massner’s.
“I thought we did a pretty good job of rebounding early, but it seemed like we were a step slow and that was really frustrating,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy. “SFA did a great job and made their shots, and they turned our turnovers into points.
“Even when we made a great play, we turn around and give the ball back to them.”
The Jacks, who average fewer than six 3-pointers per game, made 7-of-14 in the first half and 11-of-24 in the game.
The Demons forced SFA to shoot just 33 percent in the first 13 minutes as the Jacks led 21-11. But NSU missed its first eight field goals and started 2-of-15 from the field and 6-of-11 from the free-throw line.
SFA ended the first half on a 22-7 run to construct a 45-21 lead.
SFA’s Kevon Harris scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half, including all four 3-point attempts.
NSU started the second half with a spark, scoring eight of the first 13 points. But the Jacks went on a 9-0 run to stifle any comeback the Demons envisioned.
SFA, who leads the nation in turnovers forced, exchanged 26 NSU turnovers into 40 points and outscored the Demons 44-16 in the paint.
Roberson scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half and made three of NSU’s nine 3-pointers (9-of-22).
Massner added nine points, five rebounds and three assists, while Dalin Williams grabbed a team-high seven rebounds – a season-high for the sophomore.
Jamaure Gregg paired six points (two made 3-pointers) with five rebounds, a career-high three steals and three blocks.
“I was really pleased with Jamaure’s play,” McConathy said. “He was aggressive offensively in the second half.
“We have to work to get him the ball in a better position to score.”
The Jacks clinched at least a share of the SLC regular season crown with the win.
The Demons fall to a tie for seventh place with idle Central Arkansas (9-8 SLC) as Lamar (10-8 SLC) jumps both teams by beating Incarnate Word.
With the Cardinals (6-11 SLC) losing, the only team that can knock NSU out of the eight-team SLC Tournament picture is Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (7-10 SLC). An NSU win and an Islanders loss would secure the Demons a postseason spot.
NSU has three games remaining, starting with a road trip to Southeastern on Saturday at 4 p.m.
CUTLINE: NSU’s Jamaure Gregg contributed three steals and three blocks in a 90-59 loss at SFA.
CREDIT: SFA Athletics