THIBODAUX – When you give a team the chance to do something they excel at, they take advantage. That was the case for Northwestern State who sent Nicholls, the third-best free throw shooting team in the conference, to the line more than 30 times in a 73-66 defeat on Wednesday night.
“One of the keys was defend without fouling,” interim head coach Aaron Swinson said. “We fouled so much they had a lot of free, free throws and they definitely capitalized on that. The key was making sure we defended like we needed to, we didn’t do that tonight.”
The Lady Demons (7-18, 4-12 SLC) trailed much of the night thanks to the exceptional free throw shooting effort from the Colonels (9-16, 6-10 SLC). Through three and a half quarters the Colonels were 23 of 25 from the line until a 1-for-6 stretch to end the game kept NSU alive late.
The Lady Demons held an early 7-4 lead on a Bonner 3-pointer prior to the first quarter media timeout. Nicholls closed the opening period with a 10-2 run, taking the lead for good just two possessions after the first quarter break.
Bell got the Lady Demons back within a point on a moonshot 3-pointer early in the second, capping a 6-3 start to the period. Back-to-back 3-pointer from the Colonels who went 6-for-9 from the field and 6-for-7 from the line in the quarter gave them a near double-digit lead at the break at 34-25.
“We were just kind of going through the motions in the first half,” Swinson said. “We talked about that at halftime. And we talked about this yesterday at practice, we have to be more consistent.
“We won the last game we played but we have to work as hard to play the next team. I’m not disappointed but I want them to understand that we have to continue to be consistent at playing and practicing winning basketball.”
The Lady Demons found an extra gear entering the fourth quarter, down by 11 but with some momentum, thanks to a Gabby Bell layup and steal in the final seconds of the third.
Jasmyn Johnson drained a 3-point shot from the right wing that made it a 10-point game with 3:46 left in the final frame, which was followed 30 seconds later by a Kira Bonner trey that made it 68-59. The Lady Demons finally had found their stride offensively, but the Colonels continued to convert on their end, keeping the game just out of reach.
Lacee Savage, who finished with a team-high 17 points, kept hope alive for NSU with a three-point play making it a six-point affair with 30 seconds left. The slump in free throw shooting by the Colonels allowed the Lady Demons to finally close the gap.
Nicholls finished the game going 1-for-6 from the line, but the clutch shot would not fall for NSU on a perfectly executed inbound play that would have made it a one-score game.
“We came back in the fourth quarter and played really hard,” Swinson said. “We won the fourth quarter but don’t want to just win the fourth quarter, we want to win every quarter. We’ve got to have that mentality.”
The Lady Demons have Saturday off before playing their final home game of the 2019-20 season on Wednesday against rival Stephen F. Austin.
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