The Lady Demons (12-9 overall, 5-4 in the Southland Conference) and the Cowgirls (12-8, 5-4) collide at 5:30. The Demons (9-11 overall, 5-4 in the conference) and Cowboys (7-14, 5-4) are scheduled for a 7:30 start.
The homestand wraps up Saturday afternoon when Nicholls, near the top in both the men’s and women’s standings in the conference, visits for a 1 p.m. doubleheader sponsored by Jackson Automotive, which has a limited number of free tickets to those contests.
Thursday night’s McNeese doubleheader is NSU’s “Pink Out” night with fans encouraged to wear pink to show support for cancer victims in a program promoted by the Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association. Proceeds from the annual Gumbo Cook Off contest will go to the local chapter of the American Cancer Society. The gumbo will be served in the east concourse of the coliseum at halftime of the Lady Demons’ game.
The ESPN3 coverage of the doubleheader is available on the internet through most cable television providers. Fans should check with their cable system to determine if they can watch online. It is also available through the Southland Conference app, which is available for free.
The Demons have won their last four in a row. The Lady Demons took last week’s two home games to begin a streak.
The NSU men are rolling into the only regular-season matchup with old rival McNeese and former Demon assistant coach Dave Simmons, the Cowboys coach since he spent eight years on Mike McConathy's NSU staff from 1999-2007. Natchitoches native David Dumars is a McNeese assistant coach. NSU assistant Jeff Moore is the son of Nooky Moore, a former McNeese player and assistant coach.
The Demons’ win streak features stepped-up shooting: 48.5 percent overall, 2.5 percent over NSU’s season rate before it began; sinking 50 percent, 32-64, on 3-pointers, an impressive 24 over NSU’s previous season average) on 3s; and 86 percent free throw aim, 87-101, a 14 percent jump over the season rate. It also is predicated on improved defense, allowing only 40 percent shooting by foes in the last four games) and better rebounding with a +2.5 margin, countering an average that was minus 6.0 through 17 games).
Northwestern averages in the top 25 nationally in six key NCAA stats: scoring (2nd, 87.6 points per game), steals (6th, 9.4 average), turnover margin (15th, +3.8 average), assists (18th, 16.0 apg) and blocked shots (23rd, 5.9 bpg). NSU is 24th in free throw aim (74.7%).
Sophomore point guard Jalan West, who cracked the Demons’ career top 10 in assists when he handed out 10 in both games last week to get to 292 at NSU, leads the way with a 19.1 scoring average. Senior forward DeQuan Hicks is averaging 15.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Hicks has sank 24 of his last 28 free throws while West has made his last 13 and 27 of his last 30.
Freshman forward Zeek Woodley, eighth in the country with a 61.5 shooting percentage, is scoring 14.4 points per game while senior guard Brison White averages 13.8 per game. White had two career highs last week, 24 in a 100-86 win over Incarnate Word and 28 two days later in an 84-66 victory over Abilene Christian, as he made 58 percent of his shots including 6 of 11 on 3-pointers.
The Lady Demons have an 8-1 record at home this season and are 17-5 in Prather Coliseum since Brooke and Scott Stoehr took over the helm of the Lady Demon program.
Northwestern State leads the series 54-22, but McNeese has had the upper hand the past three seasons beating the Lady Demons six times in the last seven games. Last season, NSU defeated the Cowgirls 64-62 when Janelle Perez hit a last second 3-pointer.
McNeese State won the last two games in 2013, including the first round of the Southland Conference Tournament.
Allison Baggett, sister of the Baggett twins who led the Cowgirls from 2009-13, leads MSU with 17.9 points per game. Reigning league newcomer of the year Cecilia Okoye follows her with 12.2 points a contest, and she is also tops in rebounds (9.1 rpg).
Northwestern State has three players scoring in double-figures, Keisha Lee (15.1 ppg), Trudy Armstead (14.2 ppg) and reigning league freshman of the year Perez (10.0 ppg).
Freshman Kourtney Pennywell averages 6.0 rebounds per game, most on the squad.
The games Thursday night will be broadcast on the Demon Sports Network, flagshipped by 100.7 FM KZBL in Natchitoches and including 99.9 KTEZ FM in Many and 92.1 KSYR FM in Shreveport.
Free audio of the broadcast is available at NSUDemons.com, where a video stream with audio is available on a pay-per-view or subscription basis.