Career night from Northwestern State’s White challenges Rice in loss

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NATCHITOCHES – Against a Rice squad that boasted eight players 6-foot-5 or taller, the shortest player on the floor arguably had the most impact Tuesday in Prather Coliseum.

Sophomore guard Brian White (5-foot-6) had a career night with 26 points, but Rice answered the Northwestern State’s every second-half surge as the Demons fell 80-74.

White shot 9-of-11 from the field and 4-of-5 from 3-point range as he scored seven of NSU’s last 13 points as the Demons (1-2) attempted to rally after leading the majority of the contest.

“I felt good after getting some shots up earlier, and we had some great practices,” said White, whose previous career high was 12 points. “The hot start for us was great after starting slow a lot last year.

“Rice missed a lot of shots that helped us get the lead, but then they made a lot of shots in the second half.”

The Owls (3-1) answered each Demon push, shooting 9-of-16 from 3-point range in the second half. Four of those 3-pointers came on possessions after NSU scored with a fifth trip resulting in three made free throws after a foul.

Rice’s Trey Murphy III scored 20 of his team-high 25 points in the second half, including four of his five 3-pointers. He was one of four double-digit scorers, which included Drew Peterson (15 points) and Ako Adams (14 points).

“We had some great moments and had some poor moments, but the one thing that stands out is that we competed,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy. “We had 14 turnovers, which is decent, but we had some untimely turnovers.

“Rice outscores us by 18 points at the 3-point line, and we shot it pretty well from there (8-of-20). We’re still a long way off, but Rice was a tough matchup with eight returners, and I felt like we went toe-to-toe with them.”

NSU led for the entire first half and the first five minutes of the second half.

Rice started the second half on a 13-4 run capped by an Adams 3-pointer to hand the Owls their first lead at the 15:34 mark.

The Demons held their last lead at 50-47 (11:00) on two of Chudier Bile’s 10 points. Bile added 12 rebounds, a career-high and second double-digit rebounding game as NSU lost the rebounding battle by just one.

But the Owls separated for good, going on a 21-9 run over the next six-and-a-half minutes.

NSU continued its strong starts by scoring the game’s first eight points with four from junior Jamaure Gregg, who had a career-high 11 points and eight rebounds. The Demons led Centenary 8-2 and Texas A&M 7-0 this season.

The Demons are mixing in eight newcomers, a process that McConathy said will be a long-term project.

After Rice sliced the lead to 25-21, White and junior Gatdoar Kueth combine on a 10-1 run to build NSU’s largest first-half lead at 35-22.

“The first thing Brian showed me is that he didn’t pout when he didn’t start the game,” McConathy said. “He came in and did what he needed to do.

“He was bold and took the ball. There’s only one shot I wish we had back, but he had tremendous effort. I thought Rice’s length affected other shooters more than Brian, but he was able to get into the lane and make some things happen.”

White’s 26-point effort is the most since LaTerrance Reed scored 27 points against Stephen F. Austin on Feb. 16.

Kueth’s five points were the first of his NSU career.

White and Gregg (5-of-8 shooting) combined to make 14-of-19 shots. The rest of the Demons shot 9-of-35.

NSU shot well for most of the first half (12-of-23) before missing its last five shots of the period. NSU made 11-of-26 (42 percent) in the second half, although the Demons were productive from the free-throw line (20-24).

Rice improves to 8-0 all-time in the series, although the six-point win Tuesday was its smallest margin in this four-game series over the last four seasons.

The Demons hit the road Saturday with a 1 p.m. game at Tulane.

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