A strong start and second-half comeback flashed Northwestern State’s potential in its first road game Wednesday, but Texas A&M shrugged off the Demons late bid as NSU fell 77-63.
Trailing by 21 points with less than 11 minutes remaining, NSU (1-1) roared back to trail by just seven points with 3:44 left.
“I think this experience helps us tremendously, and we’ve got eight new guys, and sometimes I feel like I’m in my first year because we’re all over the map offensively and defensively,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy, who is in his 21st season at NSU. “When you go play in these venues, maybe where some of these guys wanted to go play, they can embrace that experience.
“I wished we would have shot better overall, but a lot of these guys haven’t played in venues like this, and I think this will help us going forward.”
Freshman Nikos Chougkaz scored seven of his team-high 12 points in a 14-3 run that chipped the Aggies’ edge to 10 points in just a 2:55 span. He added a team-high seven rebounds.
Chougkaz reached double figures in his first two games as a Demon, shooting 4-of-10 from the field.
Senior Jacob Guest made two of his three 3-pointers in the run, although NSU shot just 9-of-38 from distance.
“We’ve got to continue to get better and build upon this,” said Guest, who shot 3-of-7, all 3-pointers. “We did a lot of good things and a lot of bad things, so we have to learn from it.
“It’s hard to win any game shooting (34 percent, 25-of-73) from the field, and we’re not going to have nights like that every night.”
Junior Jairus Roberson’s 3-point shot sliced A&M’s lead to just 67-60 under four minutes, but the Aggies pulled away from that moment to earn former Northwestern State assistant coach Buzz Williams a win in his first game in maroon.
Texas A&M (1-0) closed the game on a 10-3 spurt, including several key turnovers in a relatively impressive 13 turnover total for NSU.
Whenever NSU threatened, the Aggies had an answer, usually from the free-throw line. A&M made 17 free throws to just NSU’s four.
Savion Flagg scored a game-high 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting with seven rebounds.
The Demons led for the entire first seven minutes, including starting the game on a 5-0 run.
Junior Chudier Bile assisted on a LaTerrance Reed 3-pointer and a Dalin Williams layup.
Bile scored eight points with six rebounds and three assists.
“I feel like we came in and weren’t scared, and we gave it to them to start,” Bile said. “We didn’t look at it like they were way better than us.
“We stayed fighting, and we never gave up. Even when we were down (21), we said that we were going to come back. They made a couple of shots and took it away at the end.”
But Texas A&M turned missed NSU shots and turnovers into points, helping itself to a 23-4 run to undo an early 12-10 NSU edge.
The Aggies had a 24-6 advantage in points in the paint in the first half, ending with a 44-20 edge.
“We shot poorly, and a lot of that had to do with being stagnant offensively,” McConathy said. “We cut it to seven points and had a couple of opportunities, but Texas A&M made the plays they needed.
“We did have different guys bringing energy, and we’re still trying to find the best combinations of players.”
NSU matched Texas A&M on the glass, 38-38, including 19 offensive rebounds. The Demons took 23 more shots, but A&M made 56 percent from the field.
NSU gets a six-day break before the Demons host Rice on Nov. 12.