TULSA, Oklahoma – The latest “McConathy Two-Step” is just that with a little twist.
The Northwestern State men’s basketball team opens the first of back-to-back road games on consecutive days Friday night at 6 at Tulsa before heading to Missouri State on Saturday.
Following that, the Demons depart for two games in three days in the Pacific Northwest, including a Monday meeting with No. 1 Gonzaga.
“If you don’t know how to play on back-to-back nights, you won’t be prepared for the conference tournament, and you’re left wondering whether or not you can string good games together,” said McConathy, whose team will play on consecutive days for the second time this season. “I thought we handled it extremely well earlier this year when we played UTA and Louisiana Tech. It’s great to see where we are physically.
“We have 14 players dressing out, and we feel like all of them can contribute in a given game. This is a good chance to see where we are as individual players as well as team players.”
The Demons (1-5) enter the back-to-back off their first victory of the season, a 77-44 win against Champion Christian on Dec. 12 in which three NSU players reached double figures and nine of the 11 who played scored.
Tulsa (1-3) fell to Wichita State, 69-65, on Tuesday, marking the Golden Hurricane’s first game in 11 days. Prior to the American Athletic Conference opener against the Shockers, Tulsa’s last game came in a 79-64 win against UT Arlington on Dec. 4.
While the Demons and Golden Hurricane have not met since the 2003-04 season, the teams share ties that run deeper than a pair of common opponents in the early season. Both NSU and Tulsa have faced TCU and UT Arlington in the first month of the year.
Northwestern State junior point guard Brian White and Tulsa senior guard Brandon Rachal were state championship teammates at Natchitoches Central High School and grew up together. The success the two built in their time as Chiefs helped White leave the school with the program record for most wins.
McConathy said playing former high school teammates is “an amazing thing.” For White, the matchup with Rachal adds a little spice to an unfamiliar opponent.
“We’ve been texting back and forth,” White said. “He’s been saying he’s going to do this and that to us. We’ll see. We’ll both be talking trash to each other on the court.
“It does (make it more special). We won a state championship together, so I’d like to get this win. We’ve been talking about it for some time.”
While White and Rachal will provide a tie for the first of the back-to-back games, there is little in common between Northwestern State and Missouri State (1-0), who will meet at 7 p.m. Saturday in Springfield, Missouri.
The teams have squared off just twice – both in the mid-1990s – and while the Demons will play their eighth game of the season, the matchup marks just the second game of the year for the Bears, who opened their campaign with a 73-64 win against William Jewell on Wednesday.
The Demons find themselves in a bit of a unique position. Since the first week of the season, NSU has not faced a team that has yet to play multiple games.
“You may not have a lot on them, but they aren’t likely to deviate much from what they’ve done in the first few games,” McConathy said of scouting teams that have seen little to no action this deep into a season.
“If you play them later in the year, you’re more likely to see them do a lot of different things. All of these teams we are playing are well-, well-coached teams. The Missouri Valley (Conference) is a good basketball league.”
The matchup between White and Rachal in Tulsa has immediate ties, but the second of the back-to-back brings another Demon within shouting distance of his home state as Iowa native Trenton Massner gets a chance to play relatively close to home.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Massner, whose 12.8 points per game average leads the Demons. “I haven’t played close to home in a year and a half. Missouri State is pretty close, so people from home have a better chance to watch me and our team play and see if we can get a win against a Division I team and keep this season moving forward.”
Both games can be heard on 95.9 FM Kix Country and the Demon Sports Network. Free streaming audio is available through www.NSUDemons.com and the Northwestern State Athletics mobile app, which can be downloaded free via the Apple Store or Google Play.