For the first quarter of Wednesday night’s game, the Northwestern State women’s basketball team got the start it was looking for, going possession for possession with visiting Nicholls.
The final three quarters though revealed the Lady Demons’ season-long struggle to find consistency as Nicholls methodically pulled away for an 89-67 Southland Conference victory in Prather Coliseum.
“Consistency is the word,” third-year head coach Jordan Dupuy said. “When we needed big rebounds, we didn’t get them. When we needed stops, we didn’t get them. Eight ‘and-1s’ for them, which is unheard of. Not enough movement against them.”
After the Lady Demons (10-18, 5-12) built as much as a six-point first quarter lead, the Colonels (19-10, 13-4) closed the quarter on a 12-5 run and never trailed again.
Cassidy Barrios’ two free throws with 3 seconds left in the quarter gave Nicholls the lead for good despite the Lady Demons hitting 50 percent of their first-quarter shots (8 of 16).
From there, the Colonels gained control with a 13-3 run to start the second quarter, pushing the lead to 13 on a Barrios 3 at the 5:37 mark, leading to a Nothwestern State timeout that seemed to buoy the home team.
The Lady Demons responded with a 10-2 run, sparked by a pair of jumpers from senior forward Libba Gilliam, who paced Northwestern State with 16 points.
However, Barrios again had an answer. After Victoria Miller pulled the Lady Demons within five on a layup with 1:22 to play in the first half, Barrios knocked down a straightahead 3 to re-establish an eight-point lead.
“We didn’t do a good job on Barrios,” Dupuy said. “We tried to limit her touches. That’s what good players do. They make plays. You have to give Nicholls credit, but we didn’t play with the desperation we needed to play with in the situation we were in.”
While Northwestern State shot 44.8 percent in the first half, sluggish shooting in the second half doused any hopes of a comeback.
The Lady Demons hit nearly 50 percent of their shots in the first meeting between the teams in Thibodaux on Jan. 2. Thanks to a 12-for-35 second-half shooting performance Wednesday, the Lady Demons finished the rematch by hitting 39.1 percent from the field while Nicholls sank 56.9 percent of its 58 attempts.
A Barrios layup 13 seconds into the second half pushed the Colonels’ lead to 10 points, and Nicholls maintained at its double-figure advantage for the final 19:47 of the game.
Barrios, the only Southland Conference player averaging a double-double, tallied game highs of 25 points and 11 rebounds to help the Colonels push their win streak to six games.
Kira Bonner gave Northwestern State a second double-figure scorer, adding 15 points.
The Lady Demons conclude the regular season by hosting Central Arkansas in a game that will help decide the final spot in next week’s Southland Conference Tournament. Tipoff on Senior Day is set for1 p.m.
Northwestern State enters that game in a three-way tie with for ninth place with McNeese and Incarnate Word, one game behind the Sugar Bears for the final tournament spot.