NATCHITOCHES – For the first time in the 2020-21 season, the Northwestern State men’s basketball team had a decided size advantage against an opponent Saturday afternoon.
It took a little time, but the Demons eventually exploited their superior size, propelling Northwestern State to its first victory of the season, a 77-44 win against Champion Christian inside Prather Coliseum.
“We did a good job of doing that,” head coach Mike McConathy said. “We had some guys do some nice things. Larry Owens did some good things. He had nine rebounds. Jamaure Gregg had nine rebounds. Robert Chougkaz had nine rebounds. Kendal Coleman had seven rebounds. We didn’t play with the same sharpness we did Sunday against ULM, but I still thought it was a good game.”
Thanks to the individual peforrmances McConathy mentioned, the Demons (1-5) pounded the Tigers on the boards, outrebounding Champion Christian, 56-36, while also doubling up the Tigers in points in the paint, 36-18.
Northwestern State turned its defense into offense, outscoring Champion Christian 29-2 in fast-break points.
Offensively, a pair of Demons enjoyed the best scoring outputs of their careers Saturday as freshman Carvell Teasett dropped a game-high 18 points while sophomore Robert Chougkaz added 13.
Teasett hit six of eight shots from the field, including three of Northwestern State’s 10 3-pointers, en route to doubling the nine-point output against UT Arlington on Nov. 28 that stood as his previous career high.
“I had to get a feel for college, because it’s not like high school,” Teasett said. “High school was different. You could come in and know you’re going to blow somebody out. College is a different level. I had to bring my energy and my confidence up to the level of my team.”
Northwestern State needed that energy boost in the start of each half.
The Demons did not score for the first 2:51 of the game until Jairus Roberson’s 3-pointer erased a 2-0 Champion Christian lead. The start to the second half was similar as the Demons stayed scoreless until an Owens layup at the 17:17 mark.
Throughout Saturday’s game, however, Northwestern State could rely on its defense.
NSU forced 16 Champion Christian turnovers and limited the Tigers to 28.6-percent shooting from the field.
Owens tied a career high with three steals while adding his first double-figure scoring game of the season, finishing with 10 points and missing a double-double by one rebound.
“I stayed on top and made them think I was getting down below,” said Owens, who proved effective at knocking away post feeds. “I beat them with good footwork to get on top.”
Although the Demons never scored more than nine points in a row, they strung together a couple of sizeable scoring runs, including a 16-1 advantage in the final 8:13 of the game.
NSU held Champion Christian without a field goal in the final 8:13 as the Tigers missed their final nine shots of the game.
The Demons, conversely, hit their final three shots of the game, including 3-pointers from Teasett and Chougkaz.
Facing Champion Christian brings out the best in Chougkaz, a sophomore forward who has tallied a pair of double-figure scoring games as a Demon, both of which have come against the Tigers.
Chougkaz’ corner 3 with 1:34 to play gave him consecutive career-high scoring games against Champion Christian and sent the Demons’ bench into celebration.
Xavier Legington led the Tigers, who played the game as an exhibition less than 24 hours after playing another exhibition at Houston Baptist, with 11 points.
“I work hard every day, and the coaches believe in me and I believe in myself,” said Chougkaz, who tied a career high with a pair of 3-pointers. “That’s where the confidence comes from. There’s a big difference between my freshman year and this year, and we still have a lot of games to play, so I’m still trying to become a better player.”
The Demons return to action Friday when they travel to Tulsa to face the Golden Hurricane. Tipoff for that game is set for 7 p.m. and starts the longest road trip of the season for the Demons, who also will face Missouri State, No. 1 Gonzaga and Washington State on the trip.