LeTourneau knocks off Northwestern State, 99-84

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NATCHITOCHES — LeTourneau sophomore Nate West scored a game-high 32 points as the Yellow Jackets knocked off Northwestern State, 99-84, on Sunday in the Demons’ home opener.

The Demons (0-2) chopped an eight-point LeTourneau lead to one (61-60) thanks to a 12-5 run, including five points from freshman Larry Owens.

But LeTourneau, an NCAA Division III team counting Sunday’s game as a preseason exhibition, stretched its lead to 10 points at the 8:24 mark and 15 points just 30 seconds later.

“We battled back, getting it down to one point,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy. “They made a lot of shots at opportune times, and we’d turn the ball over and they’d get easy buckets.

“This LeTourneau team is extremely well coached and is a team that has a lot of experience and does a lot of good things. We’re not doing a very good job defensively at all. We get a 105 hung on us at Texas and 99 today.”

The 22-8 run built LeTourneau’s lead to 83-68 at the eight-minute mark, including five points from West and nine free throws during the stretch.

NSU never got closer than 12 points in the final eight minutes.

The Yellow Jackets went 34-for-43 from the free-throw line thanks to 28 NSU fouls, including three technical fouls.

West scored his 32 points on 10-of-18 from the field, 4-of-8 from the 3-point line and 8-of-11 from the free-throw line. Senior Alec Colhoff added 21 points, including 11-of-14 from the free-throw line.

NSU’s Owens scored a team-high 13 points on 5-of-6 from the field, adding four rebounds.

“Larry Owens was a bright spot today inside, as was Ishmael Lane,” McConathy said. “C.J. Jones had some good moments, and Sweeney had some good moments, too.

“But all in all, we just didn’t do the little things to be successful. LeTourneau is incredibly disciplined with the offense they run, and they make shots. It was frustrating because we were right there, and then there was a two-minute stretch where the wheels fell apart.”

Three other Demons reached double figures in junior Ishmael Lane (12 points, 12 rebounds), senior Iziahiah Sweeney (12 points, nine rebounds) and freshman C.J. Jones (12 points, three steals).

But Lane and Sweeney each had four turnovers, contributing to NSU’s 20 team turnovers compared to 12 for LeTourneau. The Yellow Jackets cashed in with a 27-13 edge in points off turnovers.

West rocketed LeTourneau out of the gate, scoring 10 of the Yellow Jackets’ first 12 points which eventually grew to a 26-15 lead in the game’s first eight minutes.

NSU slowly chipped away at that margin, using an 11-4 run to end the half, trailing 38-37. A Jones 3-point play and four Sweeney points boosted that run.

LeTourneau never trailed Sunday with just one tie, 37-37, right before the half.

The loss is NSU’s first to a D-III team in the 19-year McConathy era, blemishing a 14-0 record.

LeTourneau nearly pulled an upset this past season, leading with 1:20 remaining before NSU surged for a 92-87 win in Prather Coliseum.

“Losing this game matters because we got beat, but it doesn’t matter in the process of where you’re trying to get,” McConathy said. “We’re trying to get somewhere in March versus now.

“It is frustrating, no matter who we lose to. It’s not easy to let it roll off your back. But we’ve got to shorten some things we’re doing offensively and defensively to get better. We’ve got to grow through the adversity, bow your neck and get tougher.”

The Demons return to action Wednesday at SMU, the final game of senior guard Jalan West’s three-game suspension (secondary/NCAA Level III rules violation).

West will make his much awaited return Friday when the Demons host Rice.

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