by Matt Vines, Assistant Sports Information Director
Southeastern Louisiana wiped out Northwestern State’s lead at the end of regulation, and the Demons couldn’t return the favor in overtime in an 84-81 loss in Prather Coliseum.
NSU (7-11, 4-5 Southland Conference) held a five-point lead with two minutes remaining and had a three-point edge with 25 seconds left, but SLU point guard Von Julien tied the game with a 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining.
After an NSU offensive foul, the Demons forced overtime on a Julien missed jumper.
But Julien scored 11 of his 16 points in the closing seconds of regulation and overtime as the Lions (6-14, 3-6 SLC) built an eight-point lead at 80-72.
But Julien iced the Lions’ win with the free throws, which handed NSU its second consecutive home loss.
“We didn’t get to the 50-50 balls that we needed to, and we’re still a team that’s learning how to win,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy about a squad that has eight newcomers. “We were down eight points in overtime, but we didn’t give up – this team doesn’t quit.
“Every time we would go up four or five points in regulation, we couldn’t put Southeastern away because they’d make a play or get a key rebound or get to a loose ball.”
After trailing most of regulation, the Demons appeared to be in control after a Zelenbaba 3-pointer handed NSU a 67-60 lead near the four-minute mark.
Zelenbaba scored a career-high 14 points and made 4-of-5 from the 3-point line.
But NSU didn’t make another field goal for more than eight minutes. The Demons were sustained somewhat from its performance at the free-throw line (22-of-33), but the drought allowed SLU to climb back into the game.
Junior Jairus Roberson added a team-high 18 points (3-9 3-pointers), joining two other Demons in double figures with Brian White (11 points) and Nikos Chougkaz (10 points and 11 rebounds). It was Chougkaz’s second
career double-double, helping NSU build a 50-43 rebounding edge.
“I’m proud of our bench and the starters because we came to play,” said Roberson, who also made 7-of-8 free throws, including completing a four-point play at the end of the first half. “We were guarding in the second half, but at the end, we relaxed.
“We relaxed, and we jinxed ourselves. But we’ll learn from it.”
SLU led the majority of the first half before the lead changed hands six times along with six ties in the second half and overtime.
The Lions led by as many 13 in the first half, but NSU ended the half on a 16-3 run to tie the score 32-32 at halftime.
Six different Lions combined to make 10 3-pointers in a pivotal stat.
NSU played long stretches without leading scorer Chudier Bile, who fouled out with six points and six rebounds in 12 minutes.
“(Bile) is one of our better free-throw shooters at (72 percent), and with him being strong with the ball, that could have helped us late,” McConathy said. “But we do have other guys that made some plays, and we stayed within striking distance.”
NSU returns to action Wednesday at New Orleans before coming back to Prather Coliseum for four of the next five contests.