Quick start lifts Northwestern State to win, No.4 seed in SLC Tournament

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NATCHITOCHES – Trenton Massner and LaTerrance Reed led Northwestern State’s early charge Saturday, and the duo made sure to put the exclamation mark on the Demons’ 79-70 win against Central Arkansas.

The win sealed the No. 4 seed for NSU (10-17, 9-7 SLC) in the upcoming Southland Conference Tournament, which advances NSU to the third round of the 10-team tournament Thursday.

“We’ve played six games in 12 days, so we’re gassed. That extra day of rest and time away from the game will be big,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy. “We’ve got a lot of emotions going on, including Carvell Teasett losing a grandmother, Larry Owens losing a father, my mother-in-law passed away.

“I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. But today, we spread our minutes out for the most part and we did some really good things at times.”

Massner was brighter than his highlighter-orange shoes to start the regular season finale, scoring 13 of his 20 points in the first six minutes.

Massner shot 8-of-13 to spearhead an early surge as the Demons didn’t surrender the lead once Saturday to UCA (5-19, 4-12 SLC).

“When you get out to a fast start, you don’t play so tense,” Massner said. “It’s important to get an extra day before the tournament.

“When you’re outside of the top four, you have to play like four games to win the thing. So getting a win today to be No. 4 is very important.”

Reed snatched an offensive rebound to set up an early Massner three before draining a 3-pointer of his own to help NSU to an early 16-8 edge. Reed finished with eight points, three steals and two assists.

The Demons led by as many as 18 points (63-45) in the second half, but Central Arkansas made its big push with a 17-5 run to slice NSU’s lead to five.

UCA’s Eddy Kayouloud led five Bears in double figures with 16 points and 11 rebounds, but the Demons had an answer.

Reed hit a big 3-pointer as NSU shot 11-of-20 from deep, and Massner followed up with a three-point play to secure the victory.

“I’m grateful to be able to do those things for my team,” Reed said. “I really prided myself on being more than a ‘shooter’ this year.

“It’s big to the win for all our seniors today, especially a guy like Larry Owens who is such a big impact for us. We missed him today, and we missed (Jairus Roberson) today, too.”

Earlier in the second half, UCA cut NSU’s edge to six points, 46-40, before Jovan Zelenbaba led a charge

Zelenbaba scored eight points of a 10-0 NSU run and finished with 15 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Zelenababa converts an old-fashioned three-point play to make it a 10-0 run, giving NSU its largest lead at 63-45. He has scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half.

“We are a great 3-point shooting team even though in the last couple of games, we didn’t show it,” Zelenbaba said. “We felt pretty coming into this one.

“Coaches pushed me to do better lately, and that certainly played a part.”

Six different Demons made NSU’s 11 3-pointers, led by three from Massner and Zelenbaba.

Others making treys included Reed, C.J. Jones, Brian White, Carvell Teasett.

NSU sweeps the season series against UCA for the first time since 2014-15.

NSU started the day by honoring five seniors, although most have an option to return for another season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seniors Jones, Reed, Jamaure Gregg,  Roberson and Owens were recognized along with junior Dalin Williams.

Owens, who is having his best season as a senior, wasn’t present because he’s attending his father Larry’s funeral back in Monroe.

Williams suited up as a Demon for the last time as he is planning to pursue his career in industrial engineering technology.

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