Led by sophomore Jalan West’s first career double-double and senior DeQuan Hicks’s 22 points, the Demons were able to outlast Niagara in a battle that was bound to see a bonanza of points.
The game began with both teams struggling to fight for control until the Purple Eagles scored 10 unanswered points to take a 14-8 lead with 15:47 left in the first half.
NSU (3-3) slowly, but surely came back though.
Fighting their way back to a 20-15 deficit, the Demons scored 12 consecutive points to flip the lead to 27-20 in their advantage midway through the first half.
The lead would eventually swell to 11, until NSU settled for a 53-46 halftime lead.
Niagara (1-6) gave up the opening basket of the second half, but promptly erased the lead to tie the score with 16:16 left in regulation.
The struggle for the lead continued until the Purple Eagles took a 71-65 lead with 11:19 left in the game.
That lead would only be short-lived when NSU tied the score on three different occasions until taking a 81-79 lead at the 7:41 mark.
"We changed up some defenses, and when we went back to man-to-man, we did a good job of locking down and taking them out of a rhythm," said Northwestern State head coach Mike McConathy. "All of a sudden, we were really energized, and wow, it brought us back. The whole tempo of the game changed, and we were ripping and running again."
The Demons had to work down the stretch to preserve the lead, however.
Hicks’ layup at 4:50 put the Demons up eight, but that lead whittled down to two after Marvin Jordan’s three free throws put the score at 94-92 with 3:38 to go.
NSU held on though, by crashing the boards and getting the final eight rebounds of the game against a slightly taller Purple Eagle squad.
"That's amazing considering we were not doing well on the boards all day long, until it mattered most," McConathy said. "That's desire.”
Niagara’s Antoine Mason scored 26 points in the second half in place of Marcus Ware, who fouled out with 5:44 to go.
Yet, the Demons got consistent scoring from West, Hicks and Zikiteran “Zeek” Woodley with the trio combining for 34 second-half points.
West scored 20 points and dished 10 assists in the game, while Woodley posted a line of 17 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
The Demons have a week’s worth of rest until they face No. 16 Memphis Saturday at 12 p.m.