The Demons (16-13 overall, 12-6 in the Southland) won for the 11th time in 13 games. Their fourth straight victory rewarded them with the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye for next week’s Southland Tournament in Katy, Texas. NSU will play in a quarterfinal game Thursday at 5 p.m., possibly against fifth-seeded Oral Roberts (16-15, 10-8), who will face eighth-seeded McNeese Wednesday at 5.
Northwestern is the defending Southland Tournament champion and has reached the championship game in seven of 10 previous conference tournament appearances under 15th-year coach Mike McConathy. Saturday in front of 2,412 at Prather Coliseum on Senior Day, the Demons hit half their 56 shots, the fifth straight game they’ve made 50 percent or better from the field.
Woodley, a 6-2 guard, enhanced his 63.1 shooting accuracy with an 8-for-12 day, including two 3-pointers, and was a perfect 4-4 at the free throw line to improve his 80.2 aim that ranks sixth in the Southland. West scored 19 points and issued seven assists, sinking four free throws and snagging a key rebound in the closing minute. ORU’s Glover was the game-high scorer with 26 points, hitting 11 of 22 shots, and snatched nine rebounds.
All-Southland nominees Brison White (14 points, three assists) and DeQuan Hicks (11 points, eight rebounds), joined by fellow seniors Patrick Robinson (four points, three assists, two steals) and Gary Stewart (nine points, four rebounds), played significant roles in NSU’s triumph. The Demons sank 27 of 30 free throws, 20 of 21 to preserve a second-half lead.
A West 3-pointer with 18:25 showing answered one by Glover eight seconds earlier and pushed Northwestern ahead to stay, 50-47. The Demons, who were behind by as many as seven in the first half, shot 57 percent from the field after halftime.
NSU’s lead ranged between 4-8 points for most of the final 20 minutes, and the Demons opened up the game’s biggest advantage at 79-67 with 2:02 remaining. After two White free throws on the previous Demon possession, the spread jumped to 12 on a Woodley 3-pointer off a beautiful assist by West, who drove the baseline under the basket and found his teammate open at the top of the key.
But Oral Roberts didn’t fold. The Golden Eagles’ 21-point scorer Korey Billbury hit a 3-pointer, made a three-point play and dunked in the next 70 seconds and the last of three 3-pointers by Adrion Webber drew them within 82-78 with 37 seconds left.
West was fouled on the inbounds pass, drained two free throws, and then grabbed a rebound on a missed 3 by Billbury and was fouled with 24 seconds to go. He again popped in a pair at the free throw line to push the Demons up 86-78, and following a Billbury layup, Woodley added two free throws seven seconds later to keep the spread at eight and ice the game.
West continued a tremendous late-season surge. After going 7-for-7, the 5-10 sophomore has now made 19 straight free throws and eight of his last 12 3-pointers, and is averaging 23 points in the last three games. He was without a steal for first time this season. Tied for NSU’s single-season school record with 76 this year, his 2.5 average is fifth in the NCAA. His seven assists were right on his 6.5 average that ranks eighth in the country. He is one of only two players to rank in the top 10 in both NCAA stats.
The Demons swept the two-game season series, coupled with an 87-83 victory Jan. 25 in Tulsa. ORU is departing the Southland after this season, going back to its former home, the Summit League.
Northwestern topped McNeese, coached by former McConathy assistant Dave Simmons, 85-74 in Natchitoches on Feb. 6 in the only meeting this season between the in-state rivals.