Midway through the conference schedule, Northwestern State has its work cut out for it if the Southland Conference tournament is part of the plan.
The Lady Demons (5-14, 2-8 SLC) dropped a second straight home game on Wednesday giving them an even bigger hill to climb during, the second half of the conference schedule to reach the top eight and a subsequent tournament spot.
That climb beings Saturday as Central Arkansas (8-11, 4-6 SLC), losers of two straight and five of the last six, make the trip to Prather Coliseum for a 1 p.m. contest, a pivotal game for both squads beginnign the final stretch.
Fans can hear Tony Taglavore with all the action on 92.3 FM The Fox with live streaming video also available at www.nsudemons.com or on the NSU Athletics mobile app, which is available for download via the Apple Store or Google Play.
Fans can also enjoy the 2020 Battle for the Paddle with more than a dozen chili chefs competing for the coveted title. Free chili will be available in the concourse and voting can be done between the women’s and men’s games.
The high-energy start on Wednesday led to an early 11-point lead, but the drop off and subsequent scoring drought allowed New Orleans to pull away and create enough of a lead to hold off a late NSU surge.
The Lady Demons and interim head coach Aaron Swinson want that same energy to start Saturday’s affair, but see it continue the rest of the game.
“We want to have that energy from start to finish,” Swinson said. “But we have to find a way that even when we don’t make a basket it’s not the end of the world. I think a lot of times we get deflated because of that. We have to have that energy from everybody, and everybody being locked in on gameday.”
A win at the end of the day would certainly provide a big energy boost to the team as it embarks on one of the most difficult final stretches in recent memory. Needing a win to keep tournament dreams alive, the Lady Demons play seven of their last nine games on the road to finish the season, underscoring the importance of Saturday’s game with UCA.
NSU plays its 13th game in Prather Coliseum on Saturday, no other team in the Southland Conference has played more home games to this point, but the Lady Demons are 5-7 in those games.
Kira Bonner continues to be the hot hand of the Lady Demons offense, turning in a seventh consecutive double-digit scoring effort after scoring 28 straight first quarter points over the last three games.
Jasmyn Johnson and freshman Tristen Washington stepped in as an important second and third option at times on the floor putting in 14 points each against UNO, a trend Swinson hopes continues going forward.
“We go over our film a lot,” Swinson said. “Talking about things that we can do better in how we’re taking shots and focusing on concentrating more at times, especially in terms of field goals. But at the end of the day we want those who are scoring to continue to do that and be aggressive at it.”
Central Arkansas boasts one of the better defensive units in the league holding opponents to just 57.7 points per game, the third best mark in the SLC. With the UCA offense only seeing 55.3 points per game on the other end, it will be the defense that tells the story on Saturday.
“It’s going to be a low scoring game,” Swinson said. “It’s not going to be easy. They’re going to get in the passing lanes, jump here, get there, get back in transition and push around on defense.
We’re going to have to be mentally strong so then we can be physically strong. Getting good penetration on offense is going to very important. At the same time if we get an open shot, we take it and if we get to the free throw line, we’ve got to knock down those shots.”
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