Ishmael Lane made shots with the highest degree of difficulty Wednesday night, and nearly posted the first triple-double in eight years by a Northwestern State basketball player.
In his 19-point, 15-rebound outing with a career-best eight blocked shots, Lane included a buzzer-beating 16-footer to force overtime. But once there, the Demons came up empty in the final two minutes, with four fatal turnovers in OT against a rugged New Orleans defense a key factor as the visiting Privateers scored the final eight points and escaped with an 81-73 Southland Conference basketball decision.
“We had some guys commit turnovers, and UNO outscored us 26-18 (for the game) in points off turnovers, which really hurt,” said Demons’ coach Mike McConathy. “We had more turnovers tonight (23, 19 in regulation) than we’ve been having. Part of it is the kids are playing so hard, they’re trying too hard, and we have a difficult time finding our way sometimes.
“We’ve got to play free. When we do that, like we did in the first half last Saturday at Central Arkansas and for stretches tonight, we become a much better basketball team,” he said. “But give UNO credit, they defended. They were tougher and they were extremely aggressive and physical, and made the plays to win.”
NSU (8-15 overall, 3-7 in the Southland) struggled down the stretch and in the final three minutes of overtime, to run its halfcourt offense well enough to get an open shot against third-place UNO (13-9, 8-3).
One situation produced Lane’s most incredible score, a twisting, fallaway 3-pointer from 30 feet, beating the shot clock buzzer with 2:57 to go in regulation, after NSU inbounded opposite its bench with two seconds left to shoot.
His other buzzer-beater forced overtime. Down by two with 9.4 seconds left, coming out of an NSU timeout, point guard C.J. Jones calmly moved upcourt and flipped a short pass to Lane, who nailed a shot just behind the free throw line for a 69-all tie.
“There aren’t enough good words to say about Ishmael Lane,” said McConathy. “To bump up against a triple-double is incredible. The shots he made against the clock were so clutch, but he’s been that way in pressure situations all year long. Phenomenal effort. He kept battling, and battling, and battling, on every possession.”
It was the second dramatic Privateer win over the Demons in seven days. After a contest in regulation that had 17 lead changes last Wednesday, it took extra time to settle the rematch, which had 11 lead changes, including swaps on six straight possessions over a four-minute stretch late in the second half.
With NSU short-handed due to another injury sustained by freshman point guard Brian White, who had scored 11 points in Saturday’s win at Central Arkansas, Jones raised his production, dumping in a season-best 14 points and handing out four assists in a season-long 33 minutes.
Sophomore center Larry Owens added 11 points while classmate Vonte Ott contributed nine, going 5-for-5 at the free throw line.
Otherwise, the Demons combined for 6 of 16 aim there, while the Privateers dropped in 20 of 26.
“We didn’t make the free throws we needed to, but we didn’t get to the line nearly enough, just once in overtime, in a very, very physical game,” said McConathy. “It’s disheartening because we didn’t get it done but man, what a great effort.
“John Norvel, Brandon Hutton and Jimmy (Vonte’) Ott laid all they had on the line for about a six-minute stretch in the middle of the second half,” he said. “We could not possibly ask for any greater effort and it lifted us into a nice run.”
That was a 15-3 eruption, fueled by defense, over nearly a five-minute stretch as the Demons wiped out a 10-point deficit and went up 57-55 with 7:08 left.
In overtime, an Owens basket drew NSU even at 73, but UNO sank three layups and a dunk in the final 2:28 while NSU suffered two turnovers and missed a pair of shots on four straight empty possessions.
The Privateers got 31 points and five steals by Ezekial Charles to help overcome 39 percent shooting to 51 percent by the Demons.
It was the only home outing in a five-game span for NSU, which visits McNeese Saturday afternoon at 3 and goes to Lamar next Wednesday night before a Saturday, Feb. 16 rematch with rival Stephen F. Austin in Prather Coliseum.