NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The Northwestern State men’s basketball team’s scheduling non-conference scheduling philosophy is to use those games to prepare it for the Southland Conference season.
Sometimes, in coach Mike McConathy’s eyes, the Demons see things they will not see again all season. At other times, one of those non-league games allows NSU to draw on their previous experience.
One of those comes Wednesday night when the Demons (2-13, 1-3) cross the Sabine River to face longtime rival Stephen F. Austin (7-2, 3-0) in a 6:30 p.m. Southland Conference matchup.
The game can be heard on 95.9 FM Kix Country in Natchitoches and on the Demon Sports Network. Free streaming audio is available on www.NSUDemons.com and through the Northwestern State Athletics mobile app, which can be downloaded through the Apple or Google Play stores.
“They’re really, really good,” McConathy said. “They get after it and can score the basketball. They pound it inside. They do sound a lot like that team (Gonzaga) up in Washington.”
McConathy pointed to the Lumberjacks’ propensity to score in transition as another similarity between SFA and Gonzaga, whom the Demons faced in back-to-back games Dec. 21 and 22 in Spokane, Washington.
The second of those games marked a turning point for senior forward Larry Owens, who scored 10 points in just nine minutes of that Dec. 22 game.
Owens has continued to build on his final two performances of the road trip in Washington, averaging 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game through the Demons’ first four Southland games. A senior from Monroe, Owens produced his first career double-double against Nicholls on Jan. 13, scoring 11 points and snaring a season-best 12 rebounds.
Trenton Massner added 16 points in the loss to the Colonels as the only other Demon to crack double figures in scoring. Two other Demons – Jamaure Gregg and Carvell Teasett – added nine points with each taking a step forward.
“Jamaure Gregg has picked up his game,” McConathy said. “Larry Owens has had some good games. Trenton Massner has had some good games. Jairus (Roberson) has had some good games. Jovan Zelenbaba has had two really, really solid games. We have to get that third, fourth and fifth guy contributing points. We have to get our parts on the same page.”
Teasett added a career-high five assists in the game, something that will loom large against a Lumberjacks team that averages 22.8 points per game off turnovers.
“They’re just hard-nosed,” McConathy said of the Lumberjacks. “Defensively, they pressure you into doing things you don’t want to do. They get you out of your comfort zone, and they really score in transition. Whether it’s off a steal or off a rebound, they attack and go downhill. If they don’t get that, they’ll pound the ball inside.”
While the Lumberjacks have a clear identity, the Demons still are establishing theirs.
“I think we are identifying some things,” McConathy said. “It’s hard to determine some of those things in guarantee games. We think we’ve identified what will help us, and the guys are starting to come around.”