NATCHITOCHES – When Northwestern State’s offense entered a lull, the Demons defense turned up Tuesday in a 67-60 win against Louisiana College.
The Demons (2-3) scored 23 points off 17 Wildcats turnovers to fend off a pesky Louisiana College bunch that pushed NSU in the final minutes.
“I thought we did a good job in that area in a tough matchup for us because (Louisiana College coach Reni Mason) does a fabulous job, and his guys were hard to guard,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy, who added that he had shrink his lineup to match the quick Wildcats. “We had several points where I thought we’d stretch the lead, but we would have an offensive miscue that Louisiana College took advantage of.
“We had much better ball movement in the last three or four minutes.”
The Wildcats came as close as five points with 1:30 remaining, but junior Chudier Bile assisted on a Jamaure Gregg dunk before a Bile lay up secured the win.
NSU made eight of its last 11 shots, including five of its 11 assists on the night.
Bile posted his second double-double of the season with 21 points and 10 rebounds to pair with team highs of three assists and five blocks.
The Denver, Colorado, native entered the game ranked 86th nationally (nearly 10 rebounds per game), and Bile posted his third double-digit rebound game in his first five.
“We took a lot of forced shots and outside shots early, and we had size on them, so we went more to the rim in the second half,” said Bile, who made 8-of-10 from the field. “I tried to defend the rim the best I could and then go to the rim offensively.
“It feels good to get these games under my belt after missing last season, and we’re definitely getting better together.”
NSU built an eight-point halftime lead by ending the period on a 15-2 run.
Biled scored five of those points, but four other Demons contributed, including one of two Jairus Roberson 3-pointers. NSU made just 4-of-17 from distance before deciding to attack the paint more often, resulting in a 46-18 points in the paint edge.
LC’s Denzel Austin led all scorers with 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range.
The Wildcats made 6-of-18 from deep, but the smaller guards were able to penetrate effectively, shooting 25 free throws (18 made) to just 11 for NSU (nine made).
Kae’ron Baker went 9-of-11 from the line as part of his 16 points with Louis Blakes adding 11.
NSU freshman Nikos Chougkaz (10 points on 5-of-11 shooting) reached double digits for the fourth time in five games.
Chougkaz had two of key baskets late, stretching a two-point lead (46-44) to nine points (56-47) as part of a 10-3 run ending at the 6:33 mark.
“Nikos had a great cross court pass because he’s 6-foot-10 and we had better ball movement overall in the late minutes,” McConathy said. “It’s a really positive thing, but we’ve got to learn to practice at a certain rate because (Louisiana College) played so hard.
“We need to do a better job in those areas, but I felt like we made the adjustments that we had to.”
The Greek freshman made the opening bucket of the game before the Wildcats scored the next 10 points. Baker scored the Wildcats’ first five points in that run.
NSU shot nearly 47 percent from the field, its best since 53 percent in the opening win vs. Centenary.
Eleven Demons scored as the bench contributed 51 of their 67 points.
With a three-game losing streak snapped, the Demons will attempt to start a winning streak on Nov. 26 at UL Monroe.
PHOTO CUTLINE: Junior Chudier Bile drives the lane for two of his team-high 21 points Tuesday in a win against Louisiana College.
CREDIT: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services