Okoye scored just six points, but had a game-high 11 rebounds and added three assists for McNeese (13-8, 6-4 Southland). The game, which featured seven ties and six lead changes, was tied at 55 with 20 seconds remaining on two free throws by point guard Janelle Perez of Northwestern (12-10, 5-5).
Perez lofted a 55-footer at the buzzer that fell just short of the front of the rim in a desperate bid to win the game. She finished with 12 points for the Lady Demons, who got a game-high 13 by Keisha Lee and 11 apiece from Kourtney Pennywell and Trudy Armstead.
It was the first loss in three games for Northwestern and only the second homecourt defeat in 10 games this season. McNeese owned a 46-32 rebounding advantage, with Talisa Boyd getting 10. Victoria Rachal was the Cowgirls’ top scorer with 11 points while the five starters registered between 6-9 points each.
“They got every loose ball and extra possession that was out there to be had,” said Lady Demon co-head coach Brooke Stoehr. “Credit them, they got offensive rebounds (13, to six for NSU) and kept possessions alive. We weren’t able to make shots consistently, and didn’t do the things we needed to get over the hump.”
Northwestern was also hampered by 37 percent shooting aim, just a miserable 26 percent in a first half which like the game, ended with McNeese up by two, 22-20. The Cowgirls shot 39 percent overall, 52 percent in the second half after a chilly 27 percent rate in the first 20 minutes.
“Neither team played well offensively, but they hit one more shot than we did and you have to credit them for getting it done,” said Stoehr. “The big story was the rebounding battle. We got clobbered on the offensive boards, gave up 13 offensive rebounds, and that was a huge advantage for them.”
Each team briefly led by six points in the second half but could not extend the lead in the hard-fought defensive battle. NSU went up 33-27 with 13:23 to go on a Pennywell layup. McNeese rallied and opened a 51-45 advantage at the 4:16 mark, but NSU tied the game with a pair of Chelsea Rogers 3-pointers on its next two possessions.
Rogers finished the game with nine points, all on 3-pointers. She also tied Trudy Armstead for the team-lead in rebounds with 10. Armstead is two boards away from joining the exclusive 1,000-point/700-rebound club; she would be the seventh member.
McNeese had more than double the amount of turnovers NSU had (14-6), but the Lady Demons on outscored the Cowgirls 12-8 in points on turnovers.
Northwestern never led in the game’s final 6:21. It was the only regular-season meeting between the teams.
The Lady Demons wrap up a four-game homestand today at 1 p.m. against another in-state rival, Nicholls State.