By Jason Pugh, Northwestern State Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Communications
HOUSTON – In the first meeting this season with Houston Christian, Ja’Monta Black carried the Northwestern State men’s basketball team offensively.
Seven days later, the Demons used a more egalitarian approach, spreading out the scoring in a 94-76 Southland Conference victory in Sharp Gym on Thursday night.
Five players hit double figures, led by DeMarcus Sharp’s 29, as Northwestern State (15-8, 7-3) extended its win streak to five games.
“That’s the job,” Sharp said. “If I can’t do it or Ja’Monta can’t do it, we’ve got other guys who step up and it shows. (Isaac) Haney had a tremendous night. Seven assists and no turnovers – huge for us. We’ve got Emareyon (McDonald) hitting shots. Jalen Hampton’s come a long way.”
Statistically, Haney had one of his most productive games in conference play, finishing with 12 points and seven rebounds while tying his career high with seven assists.
He and Sharp combined for 41 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists, seven steals and two blocks, typifying the Demons’ approach Thursday night.
“My teammates have been really good about, in practice, telling me to do what I do and keep my head in it,” Haney said. “The coaching staff believing in me and making sure I bring to the table what I do with my effort, just playing hard.”
The Demons completed their first season sweep in large part by keeping their composure.
HCU (7-16, 4-6) whittled a 20-point, first-half lead to 13 at the break, nearly surviving a half in which NSU shot 61.3 percent from the field and hit 7 of 13 3-pointers.
The Huskies continued to push in the second half, cutting the lead to single digits for the first time in the second half with 14:25 to play.
HCU twice cut the lead to seven, but each time, Emareyon McDonald had the answer.
McDonald tied his career high with 18 points on an efficient 6-for-9 shooting. A sophomore guard from Coushatta, McDonald tied a career high with three steals, part of a 15-theft effort for the Demons.
His two free throws out of the under-8 media timeout stemmed the tide with 6:10 to play. On the Demons’ ensuing possession, McDonald answered Andrew King’s layup with a long stepback jumper.
Following an HCU free throw, McDonald ignited an 8-0 run across the next 71 seconds with a 3-pointer.
“It’s mind-blowing for real, because we go through so much together in practice, off the court, everywhere,” Sharp said. “Coach (Corey Gipson) gets on them a lot off the court, but to see them do well on the court is a good feeling.”
While the Demons cooled slightly in the second half, so did the Huskies, who entered the game leading the Southland Conference in field goal percentage.
NSU limited HCU to 44 percent shooting but forced 19 turnovers – its highest mark in a conference game. The Demons did so following the lead of their tri-captains – Sharp, Black and Haney – who had nine of the 15 swipes.
“Isaac Haney played with the nasty,” Gipson said. “I’ve seen Isaac Haney do that as a younger player when he was in high school. When he plays with the nasty, he brings a lot of things to the table. He just has to continue to be nasty and be who he is. When he does that, the game becomes easy for him.”
While Black did not replicate his 31-point performance from a week ago, he finished with 19 points and five 3-pointers. Jalen Hampton rounded out NSU’s double-figure scoring cadre with 10 points.
King and Maks Klanjscek paced HCU with 17 points each.
The Demons return to action Saturday when they face Lamar in Beaumont, Texas. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. at the Montagne Center.
— Featured photo by Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services