NSU plays host to Central Arkansas Thursday with the women’s game starting at 5:30 p.m. and the men’s contest slated for a 7:30 p.m. start. On Saturday afternoon, Oral Roberts makes its last Southland Conference visit to Prather Coliseum for a 1 p.m. women’s game and a 3 p.m. men’s matchup.
Thursday’s action follows the rescheduled 3 p.m. LSU at Northwestern baseball game across the parking lot at Brown-Stroud Field. Anyone with a ticket to the baseball game can use that ticket for free admission to the basketball contests that evening.
There are high stakes for both NSU hoop squads, which both posted wins last week at Southeastern Louisiana and New Orleans. In a tightly-bunched league race, the Lady Demons (16-12 overall, 9-7 in the conference) can clinch a spot in next week’s Southland Tournament in Katy, Texas by winning one game. The Demons (13-13, 10-6) already are headed to Katy, but need to sweep their games to lock up at least an opening-day bye into the tournament quarterfinals.
The Central Arkansas women can clinch at least a share of the conference championship by winning tonight. Oral Roberts’ men are locked in a fourth-place tie with NSU but must play at league-leading Stephen F. Austin on tonight.
The UCA and ORU men’s teams are hot, having each won twice last week, including victories that knocked Sam Houston State out of second in the standings. Oral Roberts (16-13, 10-6) has won three straight and six of its last seven, with the only loss in overtime at second-place Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. ORU is withdrawing from the Southland after just two seasons to return to its former home, the Summit League.
In January, the Demons began their ongoing run of nine wins in the last 11 games by pushing past UCA 76-68 and holding off Oral Roberts 87-83 on the road.
Saturday, NSU will honor its senior players while welcoming back all basketball alumni on Basketball Reunion Day. Former men’s and women’s players and staff are invited to an 11:30 lunch in Prather Coliseum, with reservations requested to the NSU men’s basketball office by calling 357-4274.
Trudy Armstead and Meredith Graf are the Lady Demon seniors who will be spotlighted in a pregame ceremony. Four seniors will be recognized before the Demons’ tipoff: DeQuan Hicks, Patrick Robinson, Gary Stewart and Brison White.
The Demons will contend with the Southland’s top two scorers, UCA’s LaQuentin Miles (22.9 points per game) and Oral Roberts’ Shawn Glover (21.7). Miles is also the league’s sixth-best rebounder (7.3).
Northwestern is sparked by sophomore point guard Jalan West, who is fourth in the Southland in scoring (18.6) and leads the league in assists (6.6 per game, eighth in the NCAA), steals (2.5, fifth nationally) and free throw aim (87.0, 47th nationally). Hicks is ninth in the conference with his 15.4 scoring average, fifth in rebounding (7.4), and ninth in steals at 1.5. White is averaging 13.6 points (16th in the Southland) while freshman Zeek Woodley is at 13.4 (18th) and leads the league and ranks fifth in the country with his 62 percent shooting aim.
The Demons rank in the NCAA’s team top 11 in scoring (85.7, second), steals (9.1, sixth) and assists (16.4, 11th).
The Lady Demons host first-place UCA (18-9, 12-4) on Thursday and Oral Roberts (9-17, 8-8) on Saturday, hoping to avenge road losses to both teams marred by poor offensive outings from NSU, particularly after halftime.
Armstead could finish her career as one of the top 10 scorer in NSU history. She has already jumped in as one of the top 10 rebounders, and is one of seven members in the 1,000-point/700-rebound club. She currently averages 14.2 points in her career along with 6.4 rebounds per game.
Graf is a Natchitoches native who fought through a shoulder injury to return to the floor this season. She has played in every game this year with six starts, and has scored 516 career points as a 35-percent shooter from behind the 3-point line.
The Lady Demons need only one win or one Houston Baptist loss to lock a spot in the league tournament.