Turnovers allow Tulane to build big lead, down Northwestern State

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NEW ORLEANS – The Northwestern State men’s basketball team’s first visit to the Devlin Fieldhouse in more than 15 years turned sour amid a flurry of first-half turnovers.

After playing Tulane even for the first eight and a half minutes of the game, the Demons saw the Green Wave force 11 turnovers in the final 11-plus minutes of the first half, setting the tone for what became a 79-52 Tulane victory.

“They took it to us,” coach Mike McConathy said. “We didn’t handle ourselves well at all. I really felt like (Rice and Tulane) were a lot alike. The difference was Tulane attacked slowly and methodically and then, boom, they hit you. Rice was moving around, moving around and then they would go in and kick it out. It’s frustrating.”

For the second straight game, Northwestern State (1-3) opened strong defensively, forcing Tulane (3-0) to miss its first six shots of the game. That would prove to be the Demons’ best defensive stretch until the closing minutes.

After a Jacob Guest corner 3 tied the game at 13 with 11:56 to play in the first half, a Kevin Zhang dunk started a 12-2 Tulane run across the next 3:27 that put the Green Wave ahead to stay.

The Demons committed just two turnovers in the run, but Northwestern State turned the ball over nine more times in the final 8:29 of the first half, leading to a 21-point Tulane first-half advantage in points off turnovers.

“That was the first time we played against that type of zone,” McConathy said. “We never attacked the basket. When we got the ball inside, we didn’t do anything with it. They slashed and cut, and we weren’t going to get the ball.”

Northwestern State cut its turnovers down to seven in the second half and forced Tulane into 12 second-half turnovers. However, the Demons often were unable to convert the Green Wave miscues into points.

Despite forcing 16 turnovers, Northwestern State managed just six points off turnovers as Tulane owned a 28-point advantage in that stat.

Facing the Green Wave zone, the Demons hit 8 of 31 3-point attempts, part of a 35.1-percent shooting game (20-for-57). Tulane, meanwhile, rode a 48.3-percent shooting first half (14-for-29) to a 19-point halftime lead before cooling to 41.1 percent (23-for-56) for the full game.

“At times, we moved the ball in the second half much better,” McConathy said. “We did some good things. It’s unfortunate we didn’t take care of the basketball and make good plays. We only had seven turnovers in the second half and 21 in the game. The result is they had 34 points off turnovers. That’s substantial.”

Jairus Roberson paced Northwestern State with 15 points while Nikos Chougaz added 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Chudier Bile led NSU with eight rebounds and added eight points.

Teshaun Hightower led three Tulane players in double figures with a game-high 19 points. K.J. Lawson (14) and Nic Thomas (12) also reached double figures for the Green Wave.

The Demons return to action Tuesday night when they host Louisiana College at 6:30 p.m. in Prather Coliseum.

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