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Niagra falls to NSU

Jalen West's double-double fuels Demons offense past Purple Eagles
Box ScoreNATCHITOCHES – DeQuan Hicks posted a season-best 22 points while Jalan West scored 20 points and had 10 assists Saturday, propelling Northwestern State to a 107-100 triumph over Niagara in an intersectional college basketball matchup of 2013 postseason teams.

The Demons (3-3) got 17 points by Zikiteran "Zeek" Woodley, 13 from Sabri Thompson, and 11 by Brison White as they ended a three-game skid by beating the Purple Eagles (1-6). Niagara was led by the nation's leading scorer, Antoine Mason, with 33 points, 26 in the second half, as he topped his 31.3 average.

NSU, an NCAA Tournament entry last season, avenged a 92-76 BracketBusters loss last Feb. 23 at Niagara, which played in the National Invitation Tournament last March. The Demons led by as much as 11 after a 26-9 run into a 34-23 advantage midway through the first half, but had to rally from a 75-69 deficit with 10 minutes to go in a game with nine ties and seven lead changes.

The Demons tied it at 75, sparked by a Thompson 3-pointer, and never trailed in the final eight minutes, going ahead to stay on a Marvin Frazier basket off West's eighth assist with 7:41 to go for an 81-79 lead.

"We changed up some defenses, and when we went back to man-to-man, we did a good job of locking down and taking them out of a rhythm," said 15th-year Demons' coach Mike McConathy. "All of a sudden, we were really energized, and wow, it brought us back. The whole tempo of the game changed, and we were ripping and running again."

Niagara battled back from a 92-84 deficit to within 94-92 with 3:38 to go on three free throws from 19-point scorer Marvin Jordan. West blocked a shot, got the rebound and dished his ninth assist to White in the corner for a 3-pointer with 2:58 showing lifting NSU ahead 97-92. The Purple Eagles were never again in possession within a basket of tying the game.

NSU, which sank only 5-of-13 on free throws as Niagara rallied from seven down into its six-point second half lead, sank 11 of its last 14 from the line, including 3-of-4 by West and 2-of-2 from Woodley, who was fouled after soaring for the last of his team-high eight rebounds off a desperation missed 3-pointer from Hicks with 1:14 left.

The contest was the first one for the Demons with both teams scoring at least 100 since a 123-101 victory in 1994 over Texas-Arlington. NSU shot 59 percent from the field while Niagara hit 47 percent, but compensated with 79 percent free throw aim (34-43), including 88 percent (22-25) in the second half. Mason, a junior guard, drained 14 of 17 at the line.

Northwestern blocked 10 shots, three by Woodley and two each by Hicks and Matt Killian. The Demons were outrebounded 41-33, but snagged seven of the last eight missed shots to protect their lead in the waning minutes.

"That's amazing considering we were not doing well on the boards all day long, until it mattered most," said McConathy. "That's desire. It was a big team win because we got back to our rotations. At the end of the game we were able to rotate and we got contributions from guys like Sabri Thompson and Tyler Washington, who did a really nice job at point guard when Jalan had to sit down for several minutes with foul trouble."

The Demons will not play again until next Saturday's noon visit to nationally-ranked Memphis. Niagara goes to Arkansas State Monday night. NSU's next home game is Dec. 14 against Louisiana College.

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