NATCHITOCHES – Shooting 70 percent and scoring 72 points in a spectacular second-half explosion, Northwestern State rolled to its 10th win in 12 games Thursday night, zooming by Central Arkansas 119-102 as sophomore point guard Jalan West posted 26 points on near-perfect shooting and tied the Demons’ single-season steals record.
Northwestern (15-13 overall, 11-6 in the Southland) posted the highest point total this season in any NCAA Division I conference game, and the fourth-highest in a game matching two Division I opponents. West sank 9 of 10 shots, including all six of his 3-pointers, while freshman Zeek Woodley, fifth nationally with his 62 percent field goal aim, made 10 of 12 shots and scored 24 points.
NSU, which won for the third straight time, plays host to Oral Roberts Saturday afternoon at 3 in the regular-season and Prather Coliseum finale this season. The Demons have already qualified for next week’s Southland Tournament in Katy, Texas, and can secure a first-round bye with a win over ORU, which fell 83-72 at regular-season champion Stephen F. Austin Thursday night.
Thursday night, the Demons had their 86-point scoring average, second nationally, with 11:30 to go. NSU made 18 of 22 shots after halftime in the first 12 minutes while scoring 53 points and turning a 52-47 halftime deficit into a 100-81 lead.
West made three steals in 20 minutes, tying the school single-season record of 76 by Richard Taylor in 1999-2000. He added five assists as the Demons posted 30 on 40 made baskets, topped by DeQuan Hicks with six and including six players with three or more.
NSU had its second 70-point half of the year, almost matching the 73 in the second half of a 111-92 win at Auburn on Nov. 15. A dozen players scored, with Hicks chipping in 12 and seven more posting between 7-9 points.
“We went man-to-man after halftime, and the floodgates opened up. We have open-floor players who can make things happen, and they did tonight,” said coach Mike McConathy, whose team posted the highest total by an NSU squad since a 123-73 rout of Grambling in 1991. “Jalan was phenomenal, just awesome. His Bossier High School team was here watching, on the way to the state semifinals, and we wish they could come back every time.”
A missed layup in traffic with 8:54 left in the first half was the only miss by West, who scored 18 in the second half, hitting all six of his shots from the floor, including four 3-pointers, and sinking two free throws. All five of his assists and his three steals came in the second half as he played only seven minutes in the first period after picking up two fouls.
UCA (8-20, 5-12) led 44-34 while shooting 51 percent in the first half, and lost despite making 55 percent of its shots. Reigning Southland Conference Player of the Week LaQuentin Miles had game-best totals of 34 points and 12 rebounds, making 13 of 25 shots, including 4 of 5 on 3s. He led four in double figures for the Bears, who had a two-game win streak snapped.
The Demons’ only two losses in the last 12 games have come at the buzzer.