Second-half push not enough for Lady Demon as ACU hangs on

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NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State women’s basketball team found itself in an early hole Saturday afternoon against Southland Conference foe Abilene Christian.

Once the Lady Demons fought back to slice a double-digit deficit to a two-possession game in the third quarter, some of its season-long issues cropped up again.

After Northwestern State pushed its way back into the game, the visiting Wildcats swung momentum and the game back their way with a key run, setting the tone for a 72-63 victory at Prather Coliseum.

“We never could break through the wall,” third-year head coach Jordan Dupuy said. “We were down nine, got an offensive rebound and executed a play. We got in the paint, Nautica (Grant) did a great job relocating and knocked down a big three to get it to six.

“We were right where we needed to be, and then they hit us with an 8-0 run, and it goes from 46-40 to 54-40. That’s the step we’ve got to make. Do what got you into that position consistently.”

Northwestern State (6-10, 1-4) had its opportunities to stave off a quick start from Abilene Christian (12-5, 5-1), which built a 13-3 lead less than five minutes into the game. The Wildcats took advantage of a slow start offensively by the Lady Demons, who hit just three of 11 first-quarter shots.

That was before Grant began to heat up en route to another strong shooting performance inside Prather Coliseum.

Two weeks ago, Grant set a career high with 34 points in a 19-point win against McNeese in Northwestern State’s most recent home game. She established another career high Saturday, sinking 7 of 9 3-pointers to finish with a game-high 24 points.

One of those 3s came as a second-chance bucket off a missed free throw. Kira Bonner collected the offensive rebound and found Grant for a left-wing 3 that pulled Northwestern State within six at the 4:28 mark of the third quarter.

Grant’s shot was part of a 12-4 run across 4:23 of the third quarter, bringing Northwestern State as close as it had been since the 7:47 mark of the opening quarter.

“Thank goodness she showed up,” Dupuy said of Grant, who was 7-of-10 from the field and a perfect 3-for-3 from the line. “She played within herself, played within rhythm. She took some really deep 3s and made them. She did some good things off the bounce. We’ve been waiting for her to hit her stride. She’s been our most consistent starter the past four or five games, and we need that from her.”

After Northwestern State could not convert on a chance to cut further into the lead, Abilene Christian got a second-chance layup from Alyssa Adams before Dominique Golightly (team-high 19 points) and Breanna Wright sank 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to rebuild the double-figure lead.

Adams’ layup to start the run came off one of Abilene Christian’s 12 offensive rebounds. ACU came into the game as the Southland’s top team in rebound margin (plus-8.5), and the Wildcats lived up to that reputation, snagging 12 more rebounds than the Lady Demons.

Additionally, ACU outscored Northwestern State 40-24 in the paint, thanks to a tough shooting game inside from the Lady Demons.

“We had nine missed layups in the first half, 13 for the game,” Dupuy said. “We had 10 turnovers, which is good. You never want to have more than 10. That’s our goal every game. What I told them in the locker room is we missed 13 layups. That’s like having another turnovers. We also were 14 of 22 from the line.

“If we make 50 percent more of those layups and a few more at the line, we win easily. We made our run. They buffered it and continued to make shots. You have to give Abilene credit. They’re a very well-coached team.”

The Lady Demons return to action Wednesday when they travel to Sam Houston State. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.

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