Explosive first half leads Demons past Centenary in opener

NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State revved its offensive engine in the first half, powered by Demons old and new Tuesday in an 84-57 win against Centenary to start the season.

NSU (1-0) pulled away from the Gents, who were playing an exhibition, with the help of a 19-0 run midway in the first half.

Leading 15-11, seven different Demons scored during the decisive run as NSU held Centenary scoreless for 5:37 of the first half.

“We did some nice things, but we had way too many turnovers,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy. “I did see some good ball movement, and as long as we didn’t dribble too much, we moved it and we did some great things.

“I did like what we did defensively at times, kept them at bay.”

Freshman guard Nikos Chougkaz scored five of his team-high 10 first-half points during the surge.

Chougkaz was one of five Demons in double figures.

Junior transfer guard Jairus  Roberson, who set the Trinity Valley Community College career 3-point record with 151 makes, led the Demons with 13 points. Junior Larry Owens added 12 points with Chougkaz, senior LaTerrance Reed and junior John Norvel all scoring 10 points.

“We were able to knock down shots, and it was pretty basketball with the ball movement,” McConathy said. “I thought we made Centenary take shots from 26 and 27 feet, and I think (Centenary’s) Cedric Harris is a great player (20 points).”

Roberson flashed his explosiveness with all eight of his points in a span of 1:39 late in the second half.

Roberson made two 3-pointers, including the second one starting a back-to-back 3-point stretch with senior guard Jacob Guest.

“It was really fun, and I had a lot of jitters in my stomach,” Roberson said. “I got in a groove in my second time in the game.

“I loved our energy as a team in the first half, and we’ve got to keep that going for the entire season.”

After scorching the net for 61 percent shooting in the first half (20-of-33), the Demons finished at 53 percent from the field.

NSU made eight of its 11 3-pointers in the first half, finishing 11-of-22 from distance.

“We moved the ball pretty easy, and we think we could have scored more without the (29 turnovers),” Reed said. “We had five guys in double figures and (sophomore Brian White) leading the team with five assists.

“It shows that the wave system works with so many guys playing and being successful.”

Roberson made 3-of-6 from long range while Nikos Chougkaz drilled both of his attempts.

Norvel made 7-of-8 from the free-throw line to account for most of his 10 points.

Redshirt junior Chudier Bile collected 11 rebounds and three blocks as an active Demon. He had seven of NSU’s 24 turnovers, something McConathy said must get better with NSU heading to Texas A&M on Wednesday.

“Just being in a game – (Bile) hasn’t played in 18 months (redshirted),” McConathy said. “We have a lot of good players, and they needed to play together under the lights.

“That’ll help us going forward.”

McConathy will face an old assistant coach in new Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams in Wednesday’s 7 p.m. game on the SEC Network.

Williams led Marquette to six NCAA Tournaments in seven seasons before guiding Virginia Tech to three dances in five years.

He coached under McConathy during his first season at NSU as the Demons won 17 games and advanced to the Southland Conference Tournament finals.