Late spurt too much to overcome for Northwestern State in loss to Illinois State

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NATCHITOCHES—A late seven-point spurt from Illinois State was too much to overcome for Northwestern State in a 69-67 loss on Saturday evening at Prather Coliseum.

It was the first of an in-season home-and-home, as NSU travels to Normal, Ill., on Thursday.

A pair of free throws from NSU’s Jalen Hampton tied the score following the under-four minute media timeout, but the run in a span of 1:42 turned a tie game into the largest lead of the game for either team, one in which the Redbirds did not relinquish.

The run was capped off by a triple from the right wing by Luke Kasubke, which was his only basket of the contest.

The game was the third straight contest to open the season that was decided by five or fewer points for the Redbirds.

NSU (1-2) started quick with its rebounding and forcing turnovers, jumping to an 18-13 advantage over ISU (2-1).

The Demons forced an ISU turnover on its opening possession, which was a theme in the first half, as the Redbirds turned it over 12 times of their 17 total turnovers in the first half.

NSU won the turnover battle, forcing 17 and turning it over 13 times, but the Demons and Redbirds were even in points off turnovers. The Redbirds also had 13 fast break, compared to none for the home team.

“What we do well, we are being consistent with,” first-year head coach Corey Gipson said. “We are forcing turnovers. We forced 17 turnovers tonight. The game before we forced 27 turnovers. Against Texas Tech, we forced 20 turnovers. We have to get to the point where we are converting our turnovers.”

When ISU was not turning the ball over, the Redbirds were shooting the lights out in the first half, making their first four shots from the field, as the visitors drained nine of its first 12 shots from the field to offset the turnovers.

Against a bigger team, NSU grabbed 20 offensive rebounds, turning it into 20 second chance points. Overall, the Demons won the rebounding battle against the Redbirds, 32-28. ISU was a plus-20 in its first two games of the season on the glass.

“Rebounding was definitely a point of emphasis for us,” Gipson said. “We need to continue to attack as far as second chance points. Our guys for the most part, when we get offensive rebounds, they do a great job of putting the ball back in the basket.”

Much of the game was played within one score. From the time ISU’s Kendall Lewis scored a basket and drew the foul to cut it to 17-16 until Liam McChesney scored on a layup to put ISU in front 48-43, no lead reached multiple possessions, a span of 20:26 on the game clock.

ISU exerted itself down low in the second half, as Lewis scored 13 of his game-high 24 points after halftime. The Redbirds also attempted 20 of their 31 free throw shots after intermission, making 24 of the 31 shots from the charity strip.

Demarcus Sharp and Dayne Prim tried to take over in the second half for the Demons, combining for 22 points of NSU’s 35 points after recess after being saddled with foul trouble in the first half and combining to play just 14 minutes.

Down 48-43, Prim scored four straight points before having to be sent to bench with his fourth foul. Greedy Williams took over the scoring touch from Prim, as he tallied the next five.

Hampton’s free throws capped an 11-6 run by the Demons to tie the score at 54 before ISU took control with the seven-point spurt.

Sharp did his best to keep the Demons within striking distance in the final minutes, burying three 3-pointers in the final 110 seconds.

The Demons return to the court on Monday when they face their second ranked opponent in their first four games when they travel to Fort Worth to battle No. 14 TCU. They return to Prather Coliseum on Dec. 4 when they welcome Southern Miss to Natchitoches.

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