Sharp’s second buzzer beater lifts Demons over Southern Miss

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DeMarcus Sharp
(Photo: Chris Reich)

NATCHITOCHES – One DeMarcus Sharp buzzer beater was nice. The second delivered some much-needed lagniappe.

Sharp’s step-back baseline jumper as time expired lifted Northwestern State to an 84-82 win against Southern Miss on Sunday evening inside Prather Coliseum, knocking the Golden Eagles from the ranks of the unbeaten.

“Growing up, I dreamed of stuff like this, having the ball in my hands at the end of a game and icing it by hitting shots like that,” said Sharp, who collected his second straight 30-plus-point performance, finishing with a game-high 32 points.

“I honestly can say I work on those and tonight it showed. I hit one in JUCO against my (current) teammate Majok (Kuath). It was at the end of the first half, but I’d never hit a game-winner.”

Sharp’s jumper capped a back-and-forth finish to yet another close game for the Demons (7-2), who won their sixth straight game.

The Demons and Golden Eagles (8-1) swapped the lead 16 times, including six times in the final 6:45 as Northwestern State continued its non-conference pattern of playing close games.

With the victory, Northwestern State improved to 6-1 in games decided by 10 or fewer points and 4-1 in games decided by five points or less.

Sharp’s game-winner came from a different spot but it was the same result he had as he dribbled out the first-half clock before sinking a jumper at the top of the key to give the Demons a 40-39 lead.

A 6-foot-3 senior from Charleston, Missouri, Sharp rewarded the Demons’ faith in him, delivering NSU’s first buzzer-beating win since Chudier Bile hit a game-winning shot at Nicholls on Jan. 15, 2020. It was the Demons’ first home game-winning buzzer beater since Devonte Hall’s layup defeated UIW on Jan. 10, 2015.

“200,” fellow guard Ja’Monta Black said of the Demons’ confidence level in Sharp’s late-game play. “I knew that was game. When he did that step-back, I knew it was over.”

While Sharp carried much of the scoring load, the rest of the Demons had their moments as well.

Black had a personal 5-0, second-half run to erase a four-point Southern Miss lead. His steal and layup gave the Demons a one-point lead with 6:45 to play and signaled the beginning of the topsy-turvy finish ahead.

Southern Miss rode the inside duo of DeAndre Pinckney (19 points, 12 rebounds) and Felipe Haase (23 points) to shoot 56.7 percent from the field in the second half.

Haase had 16 of his points in the second half as the Golden Eagles big man worked both inside and out effectively in the final 20 minutes.

Every time Haase scored, it seemed the Demons had an answer in the form of Sharp, Isaac Haney (16 points), Black (15) or Reggie Hill (13).

Hill had a pivotal 3-pointer to square the game at 73 with 4:17, forging one of the game’s 11 ties. Hill logged a career-high 32 minutes in part because Dayne Prim, the Demons’ fourth-leading scorer at 11 points per game, missed the game because of an injury suffered in Thursday’s win at Stephen F. Austin.

“Coach (Corey Gipson) preaches (fighting through adversity),” Sharp said. “The players, we show that. We’ve shown we can overcome anything. We don’t let anything get between us winning.”

Few on the NSU roster have shown that more than Sharp, who saw his 2021-22 season at Missouri State cut short after eight games because of injury.

“You can see the trust the players have in him,” Gipson said. “They didn’t have any doubt when he had the ball. You could see how they made sure he got the ball. You could see how they understood the spacing. It goes hand in hand.

“He is one of the best players in the country. He’s not the only one on this team who’s a bad, bad boy, but he is one of the best in the country and he just put everybody on notice.”

The Demons return to action Saturday when they host longtime state rival ULM. Tipoff is set for 3:30 p.m. as the second game of a doubleheader that also features a women’s game between the teams.

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