The Northwestern State women’s basketball team did some good things defensively Saturday afternoon against Southland Conference-leading Stephen F. Austin.
The Lady Demons forced the Ladyjacks into four more turnovers than they average, but Stephen F. Austin was the more opportunistic squad inside Prather Coliseum. Buoyed by that attention to detail and another hot shooting day, the Ladyjacks pulled away for an 87-67 victory.
“We just never got over the hump,” said third-year head coach Jordan Dupuy, whose team fell behind by 11 points after the first quarter before making a series of runs in the second and third quarters.
“A lot of it was we got tired having to play a style that’s tough to play over long stretches. We weren’t able to get key rebounds, key stops, especially in defensive transition. We made mistakes, they capitalized. We missed a lot of point-blank shots. Several times, we made a run and never got over the hump. We’ve got to get to the point where we make those plays consistently.”
The Lady Demons (8-16, 3-10) did a better job of defending the 3-point line than they did in the first meeting against the Ladyjacks (21-3, 12-0). Stephen F. Austin, the Southland’s top 3-point shooting team, hit 8 of 18 3-pointers after sinking 16 of 28 in an 84-56 victory in Nacogdoches, Texas, on Jan. 12.
The Ladyjacks, however, sizzled inside the arc, sinking 25 of 35 two-point tries for a 71.4-percent success rate. Stephanie Visscher paced the hot shooting effort for the visitors, connecting on all six of her two-point field goals and 3 of 4 from behind the arc. Visscher and teammate Imani Johnson each had 21 points as Stephen F. Austin remained the lone unbeaten team in conference play.
For the game, Stephen F. Austin shot 62.3 percent from the field and held Northwestern State to a 36.4-percent mark.
After seeing the Ladyjacks end the first quarter on an 8-0 run, the Lady Demons answered by starting the second quarter with their own 8-0 surge across the first 3:08 of the second quarter.
Stephen F. Austin pushed the lead to as much as 12 in the second quarter before the Lady Demons sliced the lead to seven points at halftime on a Sami Thomas 3-pointer.
The Ladyjacks regained the momentum early in the second half, building a 10-point lead less than four minutes into the third quarter. Again, the Lady Demons answered as Libba Gilliam put together a personal 5-0 run across a one-minute span to cut the lead in half.
Gilliam connected on a 3-pointer with 4:55 to play in the third, but the Lady Demons, who came into the game as the second-best 3-point shooting team in the Southland Conference at 34.4 percent, connected on just 6 of 24 3-point tries.
The Lady Demons tried to make up for the tough outside shooting game by turning to its defense. Northwestern State forced Stephen F. Austin into 21 turnovers, four more than the Ladyjacks average.
Northwestern State turned those 21 Ladyjacks miscues into 19 points while Stephen F. Austin turned 18 NSU turnovers into 21 points.
“Our defense really got us going,” Dupuy said. “It always starts with our defense. I wish we would have started the second half better. We’d get stops, but we didn’t finish with blockouts. We forced them into 21 turnovers, but we have to do a better job of capitalizing.”
The Lady Demons put three players into double figures, doing so for the third straight game. Jasmyn Johnson led NSU with 13 points while Gilliam and Victoria Miller added 11 each. Miller also grabbed a game-high seven rebounds.
Chanell Hayes (18) and Aiyana Johnson (13) joined Visscher and Imani Johnson in double figures for the Ladyjacks.
The Lady Demons close out their season-long, three-game homestand Thursday night when they host Houston Baptist. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. inside Prather Coliseum.