NEW ORLEANS – Northwestern State battled to within three late Wednesday night at New Orleans, only to see missed chance after missed chance cost them in an 82-76 loss in the penultimate game of the season.
The Lady Demons (7-21, 4-15) had three chances to tie the game with the Privateers (16-12, 12-7) leading 76-73 at the midway point of the fourth quarter. Despite three straight stops on defense, three empty possessions on the other end, including a costly turnover, allowed UNO to create enough distance to pull out the win.
NSU committed three critical turnovers in the final five minutes of the game.
“We talked about the turnovers and things at halftime,” interim head coach Aaron Swinson said. “I let them tell us then what they thought they needed to work on, what was hurting us. It was the turnovers, one-on-one battles, knowing personnel, communication and things like that.
“We had opportunities. We got back within three and had chances to make a 3-point play or shot, missed some layups and at the same time turned the ball over. Those free throws and easy layups are what have hurt us all season long and it did again tonight.”
NSU came out with much of the same energy it did in the first matchup between the teams in Natchitoches. Lacee Savage converted a fast break layup after a steal and outlet from Jasmyn Johnson that put the Lady Demons up 12-11 with 2:36 left in the opening quarter.
The Privateers scored the next five points until Kira Bonner, who did not start the game for just the third time this season, made a jumper with 90 seconds left that cut the lead down to 16-14 at the end of the first.
After a Savage bucket tied the game early in the second, UNO went on a 14-0 run to build its biggest lead of the game with the Lady Demons going scoreless for nearly four minutes. Unlike games past, NSU answered the run and fought back over the final five and a half minutes.
“We talk about adversity,” Swinson said. “In practice we put them through situations where we’re down a certain amount of points and they have to figure out how to come back and compete against a team in practice and especially when it’s live in a game like this.”
A 7-2 run got the Lady Demons back within single digits again and on a Tristen Washington triple with 1:15 to go it was a seven-point game. The first pivotal missed opportunity of the game would come just moments later.
After two UNO missed free throws, NSU had the ball and the chance at the final shot of the half. An illegal screen was called with nine seconds remaining giving the ball back to UNO who drained a 3-point, buzzer-beater to make it an 11-point lead at the half.
UNO stretched the lead back to 14 early in the third but the Lady Demons had an answer again, going on a 13-2 run with three straight field goals and seven points from Bonner that made it 53-50 by the media timeout.
Bonner missed her next shot that would have tied the game, and after a UNO turnover, NSU gave it right back with a turnover of their own. The Privateers would take advantage. A 9-2 finish for the home team turned a tight game into a 10-point affair at the end of the third quarter.
Playing in her next to last game as a Lady Demon, Johnson willed her team forward in the fourth quarter. The senior scored a career-high 23 points including consecutive 3-point plays to bring the lead back down to three with 7:13 left in the game.
Four times in the final five minutes of the game did the Lady Demons have the ball with the chance to tie the game. Four times during that stretch they would come up short.
UNO made just enough free throws down the stretch, and the Lady Demons missed just enough, to allow the home team to pull out the win.
NSU makes its final trip of the season to Central Arkansas for a 1 p.m. game as a part of a doubleheader afternoon with the NSU men.
“We’re going to do everything we can and play every game with everything we have,” Swinson said. “That’s the way I want our team to be and that’s how we’re going to practice and prepare for it and hopefully we can go there and have a different outcome.”
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