Lady Demons’ furious second-half rally notenough against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
NATCHITOCHES – At halftime Wednesday night, the Northwestern State women’s basketball team looked lost.
Trailing by double-digits at the break for the first time in three Southland Conference games, the Lady Demons came out of the locker room and played a much better second half. However, visiting Texas A&M-Corpus Christi rallied in the fourth quarter to hand Northwestern State a 62-56 defeat inside Prather Coliseum.
The Lady Demons (5-9, 0-3) trailed by eight after a quarter and by as much as 17 in the second quarter before slicing the lead to 13 at the break.
“We started the game we wanted to from the standpoint of scheme, but we weren’t playing hard enough in it,” second-year head coach Jordan Dupuy said. “We were trapping ball screens, pressing in the full court. We weren’t flying around out of those traps. Our aggression initially caused us to go down.”
In the third quarter, the Prather Coliseum crowd could have been excused for being unfamiliar with the Lady Demons squad that emerged from the locker room.
Northwestern State clamped down on defense in the third quarter, limiting the Islanders (8-6, 1-2) to six points, including 2-for-10 shooting from the field.
For the third time in the past seven quarters, Nautica Grant spurred the Lady Demons offense. After being held scoreless in the first half, Grant dropped in 10 of her team-high-tying 13 points in the third quarter, helping the Lady Demons take their first lead since a 6-5 advantage in the first quarter.
It marked the third time in seven quarters that Grant tallied double figures in a quarter.
Grant and Gabby Bell, who finished with a career-high 13 points, were the offensive catalysts in a quarter where NSU outscored the Islanders 21-6, combining for 15 points in the frame.
“We decided to play solid, half-court defense and went on a run in the third quarter,” Dupuy said. “We took the lead with about 5 minutes to go in the fourth, and we didn’t make a play from them on.”
After Grant pulled Northwestern State within one on a pair of free throws with 16 seconds in the third quarter, Bell delivered a three-point play with 2 seconds left to give the Lady Demons a 42-40 lead after the third quarter.
Grant’s third 3-pointer of the second half pushed the lead to five less than a minute into the fourth quarter and another three-point play from Bell put NSU up six with 8:13 to play.
The Lady Demons’ inconsistency reappeared, as Northwestern State endured a 6:04 scoreless drought that Bell’s third three-point play of the second half finally stopped and pulled the Lady Demons back within two.
Tiara Matthews got open on the low block and Emma Young (18 points) found her with a pass that gave the Islanders a four-point lead with less than two minutes remaining. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi then hit seven of eight free throws in the final 1:10 to keep the Lady Demons at bay.
Each team put three players in double figures with Libba Gilliam scoring 10 to join Bell and Grant in double digits for NSU while Young, Dalesia Booth (13) and Brittany Mbamalu (10) did so for the Islanders.
“We probably played too many people in the first half who didn’t produce,” Dupuy said. “We cut our numbers down in the second half, cut our press down. We tried to make it a half-court game. It worked up to a degree. We may have gotten a little burned out, but that’s where your will to win has to take over. We’re close, but close doesn’t win.”
The Lady Demons return to action Saturday when they host longtime rival Stephen F. Austin. Tipoff is set for 12:30 p.m. at Prather Coliseum.
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