Women’s Basketball — Late surge not enough for Lady Demons to knockoff Nicholls

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THIBODAUX – Since arriving at Northwestern State, Jordan Dupuy simply has asked for his Lady Demons basketball team to give itself a chance to win on the road in the fourth quarter.

Facing a double-figure deficit entering the final quarter Wednesday night, the Lady Demons made a furious push to indeed give themselves a chance against defending Southland Conference Tournament champion Nicholls at Stopher Gymnasium.

The Lady Demons sliced a 15-point deficit to one but never could take the final step before falling 97-86 to the Colonels in the conference opener for both teams.

“We were right there with the ball, down two,” Dupuy said. “We turned it over after we turned them over. That was the story of the game. We’d make plays and give it right back up. There were two things we talked about after the Texas game – rebounding and free throw shooting. We concentrated on it the past two days. We’ll either continue to do it and get this same result, or we’ll fix it and win games.”

The Colonels (7-6, 1-0) outrebounded the visiting Lady Demons (5-7, 0-1) by 20 (44-24), but their biggest advantage came at the free throw line.

Nicholls, the Southland Conference’s leading free throw shooting team, knocked down 37 of 47 free throws (78.7 percent). That steady aim allowed the Colonels to turn back Northwestern State’s fourth-quarter surge.

Down by 15, the Lady Demons got a spark from junior guard Kira Bonner, who canned a right-wing 3-pointer with 6 seconds left in the third quarter to cut the Colonels’ lead to 71-59.

Armed with that momentum, the Lady Demons cranked up the defensive pressure early in the fourth quarter, setting off on a 15-3 run over the first 4:54 of the final quarter. Bonner capped the run with another 3-pointer, part of a 14-point second-half surge for Northwestern State’s leading scorer.

Bonner finished with 21 points just behind the 23 from RaVon Nero, who scored 19 of her total in the final 20 minutes. The pair combined to shoot 5 for 12 from the 3-point line as Northwestern State hit 6 of its first 7 second-half 3-pointers to nearly erase its 15-point deficit.

The duo became the first pair of NSU players to top 20 points in the same game since Beatrice Attura and Cheyenne Brown did so March 2, 2017, at Stephen F. Austin.

“It’s good to have them scoring consistently, but someone else has to step up,” Dupuy said. “We’re trying to find that combination to do what we need to do consistently. We have some players on the floor who are not giving us much. It’s not that they’re not capable, but we have to find a way for people to produce. In order for us to play like we want to play, we can’t narrow or rotation down to seven or eight players.”

After the Lady Demons cut the lead down, the Colonels worked their way to the free throw line, allowing Nicholls to maintain its advantage despite going 2:36 without a field goal between an Airi Hamilton layup and a 3-pointer from the Southland’s leading scorer and rebounder Cassidy Barrios (23 points, 11 rebounds).

In the time between field goals, Nicholls was 6 for 8 from the free throw line.

Hamilton (19), Chrystal Ezechukwu (15) and Bryanna Washington (14) all reached double figures for Nicholls, while Jada Freeman, returning from a three-game absence because of a knee injury, added 10 on 4-for-6 shooting from the field.

“Typically, when someone misses that amount of time, I don’t bring them back that quick,” Dupuy said. “For her to come out and play like she did was no surprise. That’s how she practiced the last two days.”

The Lady Demons return to action Saturday when they host McNeese in their conference home opener. That is the lone home game among Northwestern State’s first four conference contests.

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