Demons begin home stretch against Incarnate Word - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Demons begin home stretch against Incarnate Word

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Northwestern State took steps in the right direction last week with two gritty road wins, giving the Demons the opportunity to climb into the thick of the Southland Conference basketball race at home over the next two weeks, beginning Thursday night at 7:30 against a talented Incarnate Word team.

 

The Demons (7-11 overall, 3-4 in the Southland) square off against a new conference member that has served notice it will be a factor in the league championship picture. The Cardinals (16-3 overall, 4-2 in the Southland) whipped second-place Sam Houston State 85-74 last week and their two Southland losses are by a combined total of just six points.

 

"They have seven players as good as any in the league, and a coach (Ken Burmeister) who's been around and does a great job. They're very tough," said 15th-year Demons coach Mike McConathy. "It's our next challenge to go get that win and make a statement that we're heading in the right direction in the conference standings, back in the thick of the race, and that we're on a little bit of a roll."

 

Incarnate Word junior guard Denzel Livingston won Southland Player of the Week honors after averaging 24 points, six rebounds and six steals in the Cardinals' last two wins. He and Demons sophomore point guard Jalan West are 2-3 in the league in scoring (19.3 average for Livingston, 19.0 for West), are first (West at 5.9) and fifth (Livingston at 4.32) in assists per game, and are 1-2 in steals per game (2.58 for Livingston, 2.56 by West).

 

The teams rank 1-2 in the Southland in scoring (87.1 for the Demons, 84.5 for the Cardinals) and have five of the conference's top 11 individual scorers. Northwestern has three, with West joined by senior forward DeQuan Hicks fifth (16.2) and freshman guard Zeek Woodley 11th (14.6). Incarnate Word's Kyle Hittle is fourth in the conference at 16.9 per game.

 

Hicks ranks fourth in the conference with his 7.6 rebounding average after snatching 11 rebounds in wins at Central Arkansas (76-68) and Oral Roberts (87-83) last week. Junior center Marvin Frazier leads the Southland in blocked shots (2.2 per game).

 

Woodley is fifth nationally with his 61.7 shooting percentage while West is 10th in steals per game, 20th in assists and 49th in scoring. Frazier is 53rd in blocks while Hicks is 44th in double-double performances, having posted double-digit scoring and rebounding totals in the same game seven times, including both games last week.

 

Northwestern snapped a three-game skid with the win at UCA, leading for the final 33 minutes. At ORU, there were 12 ties and six lead changes, with the Demons never trailing in the final 10 minutes and pulling away from a 78-all tie on two straight 3-pointers by freshman Sabri Thompson off West assists. Ten Demons scored in that victory.

 

After shortening his playing rotation from its normal five-in, five-out shuffle earlier in the month, McConathy resumed the wave substitutions last week and got improved production past his first five.

 

"We had to figure out a way to get it done. We went back to our waves, we moved DeQuan Hicks into the second wave and I can't say enough about his willingness to sacrifice self for the benefit of the team. We added Ryan King in the second wave to give us better length and defensive presence," he said. "We got more contributions from the second wave last week than we had for several games.

 

"Defensively we did a lot better job, didn't give up as many easy  baskets, and we were competitive rebounding. DeQuan had 11 rebounds in both games and that made a big difference," said McConathy.

 

Thursday night's doubleheader, which begins in Prather Coliseum with a women's game at 5:30 between the schools, features the annual "Chili Cook Off" with free chili for fans as long as the supply lasts between 6-7 p.m.

 

The contest between the Demons and Cardinals will be broadcast on the Demon Sports Network, flagshipped by 100.7 FM KZBL in Natchitoches and including 99.9 KTEZ FM in Many and 92.1 KSYR FM in Shreveport.

 

Free audio of the broadcast is available at NSUDemons.com, where a video stream with audio is available on a pay-per-view or subscription basis.

 

The homestand continues Saturday afternoon as Abilene Christian visits Prather Coliseum. Next week, McNeese comes to town on Thursday night. Feb. 6, on "Gumbo Cook Off" night and Nicholls is the foe wrapping up the homestand on Feb. 8.

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