By Brad Welborn, Northwestern State Assistant Sports Information Director; featured photo by Gary Hardamon
NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State turned things up a notch in the second half on its way to a convincing 82-41 win over Arkansas Baptist on Saturday afternoon.
Behind a dominating effort on the offensive glass, the Demons (1-4) scored 51 second-half points, shot nearly 50 percent from the field and forced 18 turnovers to pick up their first win of the season.
“At half time we hit on the fact that we hadn’t touched on or earned a check for any of our game keys and that we needed to level up,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “We needed to be more disciplined overall and to capitalize on some energy and play more Demon basketball. They absolutely came out of the half, responded and did that.”
The Demons led from the opening possession of the game on a jumper from Carla Celaya and got out to a 12-4 lead in the first five minutes of the game with five assists on their first six field goals of the game.
They weren’t however, able to maintain that pace allowing Arkansas Baptist to hang around most of the first half, pulling within three on an 8-3 stretch to finish the first quarter and cutting the lead down to one on two different occasions in the second quarter.
The Demons went into the half with an eight-point lead thanks to an 8-1 run to finish the half, getting the final five points of the run from Jiselle Woodson and holding the Buffaloes without a field goal for the final 3:17.
Woodson finished the half with nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field and three free throws. The Demons’ leading scorer coming into the game, Sharna Ayres, was held scoreless on seven attempts in the half, but it was her performance in the third quarter that served as the catalyst for the huge second half.
NSU stretched the lead to double-figures early in the third quarter thanks to a pair of offensive rebounds and putbacks, one from Carla Celaya and the other from Jasmin Dixon. The offense then took off once Ayres’, and NSU’s, first made three-pointer of the game ripped the net three minutes into the third quarter, also from an offensive rebound.
The Demons scored on six of their first eight possessions of the second half with six offensive rebounds and 11 second-chance points during that stretch to push the lead to 44-29 midway through the quarter.
“During that first half we were at best getting one person to the ball on those offensive rebound opportunities,” Nimz said. “They came out in the second half pursuing with two people and coming down and being strong with the basketball. We you can do the disciplined, gritty things it’s going to allow someone to create a second possession and that’s going to be huge as we continue through the season.”
Ayres huge third quarter kicked into high gear over the final four minutes as she scored 12 of her 15 points in the period during that time including seven in three straight trips down the floor giving the Demons a 60-31 lead.
NSU closed the quarter with an 18-0 run, holding Arkansas Baptist scoreless for the final 5:17 of the period and outscore the Buffs 31-8 in the period behind a 55 percent shooting effort from the field.
“I noticed that I was rushing my shot a little in the first half,” Ayres said. “I just needed to take my time with it and they started falling.”
The Demons kept the foot on the gas the rest of the way collecting 17 offensive rebounds in the second half to finish with 25 for the game, five more than they had on the defensive glass. They finished the game with 27 second-chance points.
“We were hungry in that second half,” Jenny Ntambwe said who nearly picked up her first double-double with a team-leading 16 points and eight rebounds. “We were going at it, boxing out and not taking anyone lightly. We went out there and went after the ball.”
She had 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field in the second half with four rebounds.
“Once I’m able to get in my comfort zone I stay in it longer,” Ntambwe said. “I have everything that I need so it’s just being confident and going out there and doing me.”
Ntambwe and Ayres both finished in double figures with Woodson, Jasmin Dixon and Jordan Todd all with nine points on the day. The Demons got 34 combined points from their three primary post players.