When Jalan West went down with a season-ending knee injury, the Northwestern State Demons found themselves with their backs against the wall. West was expected to lead the Demons to another strong season in the Southland Conference, and formed one of the most dynamic back court scoring duos in the country, alongside fellow star Zeek Woodley.
Since West’s departure, the Demons have struggled. They entered Saturday’s game against the Lamar Cardinals riding a four-game losing streak, all of which were against conference opponents. A win would give them some positive momentum that they could use to boost their confidence and possibly get back on the right track.
Lamar entered the day on a bit of a slide of their own, losing their previous three games after a four-game winning streak. With both teams looking to end their slides, this game was destined to be close from the outset.
The Demons would take a five-point lead into the half, but the game would come down to the wire in the second half. Thanks to some strong shooting from Nick Garth, the Lamar Cardinals were able to come away with their 10th win of the season with an 86-82 victory over the Northwestern State Demons.
In the first half, it was all about the Demons building on their lead. A pair of free throws from Woodley would give the Demons an 8-point lead with just over 8 minutes to go n the half, at 22-14.
Lamar would fight back, and take a 4-point lead of their own shortly thereafter. Lincoln Davis gave the Cardinals a 29-25 lead, and they would hold the lead for a brief time before the Demons would surge back to take the lead into the break.
Ta’Jon Welcome scored four points in the closing minute of the half to push the Demons’ lead to 38-33 after the first 20 minutes of the contest.
Northwestern State looked as though they were going to run away with the game and put an end to their losing streak. They took a pair of 12-point leads, the second coming at the 14:14 mark of the half when Devonte Hall made a pair of free throws.
Dontavious Sears responded for the Cardinals by completing a three-point play, and Lamar stormed back to eliminate the lead of the Demons. Sears kicked off a 14-2 run for Lamar to tie the game up at 61-all.
Back and forth the teams would go as the second half wound down. With the score at 78-76 for the Demons, the Cardinals got a pair of long balls from Garth to give them an 82-78 lead with under 3 minutes to play.
Woodley would hit a three-pointer of his own with 43 seconds on the clock to cut the deficit to 83-82. Josh Nzeakor scored three points in the final 14 seconds for Lamar to seal the deal.
Northwestern State made it close down the stretch, but Lamar got big production from their talented freshmen when it mattered most, and the Cardinals came away with the 86-82 victory over the Demons.
Ta’Jon Welcome led the way for the Demons, scoring a game-high 21 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 2 assists in the loss. Zeek Woodley, who usually fills the stat sheet on a nightly basis, had a quiet evening, scoring 11 points and adding 2 rebounds.
The Lamar Cardinals had four different players reach double-figures in points, and two of their forwards recorded a double-double. Dontavious Sears recorded 19 points to go along with 13 rebounds, while Josh Nzeakor added 18 points and 15 rebounds of his own in the win.
Nick Garth, who came up with the key three-pointers down the stretch, added 19 points of his own. Kevin Booze was held to 4 points in the game, but dished out 10 assists in the victory.
CCR Three Stars
1st Star: Dontavious Sears – Lamar Cardinals
2nd Star: Josh Nzeakor – Lamar Cardinals
3rd Star: Nick Garth – Lamar Cardinals
With the loss, the struggles continue for the Northwestern State Demons (3-12, 0-5), as they suffer their fifth-straight loss to open up Southland Conference play. The loss of Jalan West has hurt the team on both ends of the floor, and they haven’t been able to win the close games this season. They will look to stop their drought again on Tuesday night, when they take on the Texas A&M-CC Islanders.
The win put an end to the three-game losing streak for the Lamar Cardinals (10-7, 2-3). It also gave them their 10th win on the season. Lamar’s crop of freshmen are one of the more underrated groups in the country. The Cardinals will look to push their streak to two straight wins on Monday night, when they head on the road to take on the Southeastern Louisiana Lions.