By Brad Welborn, Northwestern State Assistant Sports Information Director
NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State spent a large portion of its practice time this week working on defense. That focus paid major dividends in a 59-48 win over Houston Christian on Thursday night in Prather Coliseum.
The Lady Demons (8-10, 4-4) held HCU to a 26 percent shooting effort from the field, the lowest by a Division I opponent since the 2010-11 season. Candice Parramore’s career-high 24 points led the charge on the offensive end to get NSU back in the win column.
“The girls had a really good week of practice where we worked on our defense a lot,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “We shored up some areas there during the week, still had some mishaps tonight, but they did a really good job from start to finish. They handled the offense, played their scout and played with intensity.”
NSU came out with the defensive intensity Nimz wanted to see from opening tip, the thing that was missing from the previous two outings on the road.
Neither team was able to find the bucket for nearly the first four minutes of the game, combining to got just 2-for-13 from the field through the first six minutes of the night.
Parramore hit the first of her career high four 3-point shots to answer HCU’s break through bucket with 6:11 left in the first quarter. She dropped in a jumper with under a minute to go to put NSU on top, a lead it held the rest of the game, and Bengisu Alper capped the low-scoring opening quarter with a corner 3 to make it 13-9.
“The coaches have really been helping me gain confidence in my shot,” Parramore said. “It really is just a confidence thing for me when it comes to 3s now. I know how people are going to play me, so I’ve been working on gaining that confidence to take those long shots.”
The NSU defense cranked up the effort in the second holding HCU to just two made free throws through the first four and a half minutes of the second quarter and just one field goal in over eight minutes of game time. The Huskies finished 2-for-11 from the field in the second quarter.
It forced five turnovers in the first quarter, upping that to six in the second and took a 26-22 lead into the half.
The Demons held off the best HCU run of the night midway through the third quarter where the Huskies pulled within a pair thank to an 8-2 stretch. Three turnovers on its three possessions following the final bucket opened the door for the Demons to burst through and take control of the game.
Parramore started a 9-0 run with a layup on an inbound play and the Demons back-to-back key baskets from Joelle Johnson to push the lead to double-digits with two minutes to go in the quarter.
All eight of Johnson’s points came in the second half at seemingly the most opportune times.
“I think she (Johnson) stepped in big,” Parramore said. “I talked to her at halftime and told her to not get frustrated, because she definitely was frustrated in the first half. I told her they were going to go in, in the second half and I think that helped her confidence to shoot and do what she does.”
The Demons forced four of the five third-quarter HCU turnovers in the final four minutes of the quarter and did not allow a made field goal during that stretch.
HCU closed the gap to single-digits on four different occasions in the fourth quarter but each time the Demons found an answer on the offensive end, and found the final push down the stretch defensively to shut the door on the game.
Like it did to end the third quarter, NSU held the Huskies without a field goal, or point for the final three and a half minutes, sealing the game with four free throws in the final 40 seconds.
“I was happy to see them have success after two frustrating road games,” Nimz said. “Happy to get back into Prather and win a game in front of our fans and happy for the girls to get that confidence back. They did a good job all week and always good when you see that come to fruition.”
— Featured photo by Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services