For the first time in a month Northwestern State will play a game inside Prather Coliseum. After four road trips, two postponed road games – against the same team – and plenty of growing pains along the way, the Lady Demons host preseason Southland Conference favorite Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday night.
The first home conference game for first-year head coach Anna Nimz tips off at 6:30 p.m. The game can be heard here:
For the second time in a little over two weeks the Lady Demons (0-8, 0-3 SLC) had their game against UIW postponed due COVID-19, adding another notch to the already unprecedented 2020-21 season.
“It was disappointing,” Nimz said. “This past weekend would have been our bye weekend and I think we would have benefited from that. Just to be able to take a step away, refresh and regroup but that’s not what the cards had for us.
“It’s crazy but every program is going through crazy. I think it’s the ones that can do their best to maintain a positive outlook, be grateful for the game we do get to play and understand that there are going to be more ups and downs.”
NSU looks to build on two solid quarters in its last outing against Nicholls, where despite another tough loss, showed some of the improvement and growth that Nimz has been looking to see.
Although turnovers continued to plague the Lady Demons in their two best quarters against Nicholls, the execution on both ends of the floor was better during that time. According to Nimz that was all due to one thing – poise.
“We were able to play with poise under pressure in the first quarter,” said Nimz. “When we took a ‘thousand one’ to slow down and think, we had success. That one second of thought allows for a pass fake pass, jump stop, better vision, we are less likely to turn it over and so much more. Playing with poise continues to be an emphasis for our program.”
Poise under pressure will go a long way for the Lady Demons on Wednesday as they face one of the best defenses in country.
Stephen F. Austin (12-4, 4-0 SLC) leads the nation in steals with a whopping 202 coming into the game and forces and average of 25.9 turnovers per game, second most in the country. With 14.4 steals per game, they rank third in the NCAA.
“They are going to full court press us,” Nimz said. “The majority of games right now, a lot of people aren’t even getting past half court and if they do, they drop into a high-pressure 2-3 zone that is great.
“We’re going to scout it and practice it and like I’ve said multiple times I just want them to play to the best of their ability and play with poise.”
NSU has struggled with ball security this season, turning the ball over an average of 22.1 times per game including a season-high 31 at Nicholls.
The Ladyjacks don’t just bring a stout defense into Prather they have the offensive firepower to go along with it.
Scoring nearly 100 points per game through their first four league games with four players shooting better than 50 percent from the field, SFA has one of the most effective and efficient offenses in the region.
“It’s an opportunity,” Nimz said. “Every day you see an underdog take on the best-of-the-best. For the Southland Conference, SFA is one of the best-of-the-best. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose and we need to play that way.”
Photo credit: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services