Well-rounded Demons pull away from New Orleans

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NEW ORLEANS – The road warriors lived up to their name Saturday afternoon.

Less than 48 hours after an overtime win, the Northwestern State men’s basketball team made much quicker work of New Orleans, shaking off a slow offensive start to methodically pull away from the Privateers for an 88-65 Southland Conference victory.

“The tri-captains – (DeMarcus) Sharp, (Ja’Monta) Black and (Isaac) Haney really led,” first-year head coach Corey Gipson said. “They were phenomenal with their leadership. Everybody else following suit. The energy, effort and enthusiasm never wavered. It was a collective effort.”

The Demons (12-8, 4-3) hit just one of their first nine shots as New Orleans (6-12, 3-4) zipped to a 9-2 lead.

That stood as the high point for the homestanding Privateers as two of the Demons’ tri-captains, Sharp and Black, carried the offensive load in the first 20 minutes.

Sharp had 18 of his 26 points in the opening half as Northwestern State built a six-point halftime advantage. Black, coming off a 31-point outburst at Southeastern, added 10 first-half points as the Demons connected on 17 of their final 25 shots of the half.

With 18:17 to play in the game, the Demons faced nearly as much adversity as they did for most of the final 35 minutes of play. Freshman guard Greedy Williams left the game with a foot injury and did not return.

Williams already had handed out four assists in 17 minutes of playing time and was picking up where he left off from in Thursday’s win at Southeastern.

In his place stepped Emareyon McDonald, whose late first-half 3-pointer doubled the Demons lead with 2:45 to play. McDonald filled in more than admirably for Williams, scoring 10 points in the second half while grabbing three rebounds and adding two steals.

“It’s not all about scoring,” McDonald said. “I like getting in and bringing my rebounding, my defense and my physicality to the game. If a shot presents itself, I’m going to knock it down.”

While the Demons slipped to 42 percent shooting in the second half, Northwestern State maximized every possession. NSU committed just four turnovers – none in the final 20:11 of the game.

By virtue of their plus-12 turnover margin, the Demons outscored the Privateers 19-0 off turnovers. That edge allowed NSU to steadily pull away in the second half despite not having more than a run of seven straight points in the game.

With NSU’s lead steadily building, it allowed Gipson to give his primary weapons some rest down the stretch, which in turn produced a couple of highlight-worthy clips.

The first came with 1:34 in the game when Hansel Enmanuel slipped a nifty pass to Jordan Wilmore for a two-handed dunk that built NSU’s lead to 22.

Enmanuel wasn’t finished.

With 41 seconds left, he took a swing pass from Haney and delivered a rainbow 3-pointer from the right corner for the first long-range basket of his NSU career.

Those moments, along with a head play from Wilmore with 4:20 remaining, caught Gipson’s eye.

“How big was Jordan Wilmore at 7-foot-3 diving on the floor for a 50-50 ball and having the wherewithal to call a timeout?” Gipson asked. “That’s big time. Then for the guys to click the ball and pass it to Hansel Enmanuel to get something going really shows how special a group we have. They’re willing to serve each other.

“Other guys could have wanted to get in and put one up, but they wanted it for Hansel, who is such an inspiration to so many people.”

Added Wilmore: “Hansel, when he gets in he’s ready, and he’s going to make the smart play.”

Enmanuel’s 3 was the Demons’ 10th of the game, giving them a 12-point advantage in that category.

Black finished with a game-high 28 points to lead Northwestern State, which also got Sharp’s 26 points, McDonald’s 13 and a 10-point, 11-rebound double-double from Jalen Hampton, who has three double-doubles in the past four games.

Omarion Henry’s 16 points off the UNO bench paced the Privateers, who also received double-figure production from Jordan Johnson (12).

The Demons return home Thursday to start a two-game homestand, hosting Houston Christian at 8 p.m. inside Prather Coliseum.

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