Lady Demons tip off SLC schedule at defending tournament champion Nicholls

Freshman RaVon Nero (right) led Northwestern State with 18 points in a loss at No. 13 Texas on Saturday. Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services


THIBODAUX – The non-conference portion of the 2018-19 season officially is in the past for the Northwestern State women’s basketball team.


At 6 p.m. Wednesday, it will be time for the Lady Demons to put the lessons they learned in their 11 non-conference games into action when they open Southland Conference play against defending SLC Tournament champion Nicholls inside Stopher Gymnasium.


Wednesday’s game can be heard on 100.7 FM KZBL in Natchitoches and on the Demon Sports Network. Streaming audio is available on or through the new Northwestern State Athletics mobile app, which can be downloaded through the Apple Store or Google Play.


“You take the games we’ve played on the road – Arkansas, Oklahoma, Southern Miss, Alabama, Texas,” third-year head coach Jordan Dupuy said. “Those are some big-time opponents. You shouldn’t go on the road in conference and feel intimidate, especially since we’ve had some success against those types of teams.”


The Lady Demons (5-6, 0-0) found plenty of positives from their Dec. 29 loss at No. 13 Texas, including the ability to maintain their defensive aggression.


Northwestern State forced the Longhorns into 16 turnovers, which tied a season low for an NSU opponent. Despite that, the Lady Demons remain No. 1 in the country at forcing turnovers, doing so 27.1 times per game.


“That’s our identity,” Dupuy said. “That’s how we have to play. You look at the end of the Texas game, outscoring them (in the fourth quarter), playing against their top eight players all game, forcing two backcourt violations (in the fourth quarter) and forcing more turnovers than they did. We did a lot of positive things we hope we can keep rolling as we prepare for Nicholls.”


The Colonels (6-6, 0-0) present one of the toughest individual matchups in the Southland Conference.


Senior guard Cassidy Barrios enters the conference opener pacing the league in scoring (20.8 ppg), rebounding (11.1), assists per game (4.8), free-throw percentage (92.2) and minutes per game (37.3).


Barrios already has earned three Southland Conference Player of the Week honors in the first six weeks of the season.


“She’s a great player,” Dupuy said. “High IQ, long, athletic and she’s done a great job of improving every year. She’s a player I’ve known for a long time. I recruited her at Southern Miss. She can play four positions. She can handle it, shoots it at all three levels, has post moves. She’s a very tough matchup. We’ll try to do some things to help us out and hopefully limit what she can do.”


Slowing Barrios means handling a player who has accounted for 34.3 percent of Nicholls’ scoring, 31.4 percent of its rebounds and 38.2 percent of its assists. It also means doing so in a place the Colonels have not lost this season (3-0) and have won eight straight dating to the 2017-18 season.


“We’re going to have to run both ways, create tempo both ways,” Dupuy said. “We’ll play 11 or 12 players. Jada (Freeman) is back. We have to do what we’ve been doing. I said it going into the fourth quarter at Texas. The game was decided, but we went to doing what we do. We got into our run-and-jump. We were trapping ball screens. When you do that, it’s amazing how much easier the offense comes.”