Friday, November 25, 2016

Second-half push lifts Mississippi Valley State past Northwestern State Lady Demons

NATCHITOCHES, Louisiana -- The Northwestern State women's basketball team overcame a slow start Friday night to take a halftime lead against Mississippi Valley State.

The Lady Demons were unable, however, to repeat that in the second half.

A third-quarter surge from the visiting Delta Devilettes allowed them to overcome a six-point halftime deficit and hand Northwestern State its first home loss of the season, 68-64.

"You've got to give Valley credit," first-year head coach Jordan Dupuy said. "They did some things that shook us. They changed their defenses. Full-court, half-court, they even played a box-and-one, which we hadn't seen. They chased Beatrice (Attura) everywhere. We made her a screener, which ended up working. We just didn't finish around the rim."

Northwestern State (3-2) fell behind by eight points midway through the first quarter before turning in its best statistical defensive quarter of the young season.

NSU did not allow Mississippi Valley State (2-2) to connect on a field goal in 10 second-quarter attempts, limiting the Delta Devilettes to just two Christina Reed free throws in that time.

Sparked by that defense, the Lady Demons carried a lead into the half for the fourth time in five games this season.

While the Lady Demons held the Delta Devilettes to 30.4 percent shooting in the opening half, Mississippi Valley State used the free throw line to start its comeback.

The Delta Devilettes connected on 10 of 11 free throws in the third quarter and 21 of 26 second-half tries from the line.

In a game that saw 57 combined fouls and 54 total free throws, Valley's proficiency at the line was a difference maker, allowing it to answer every Northwestern State second-half push.

After Valley opened a nine-point lead with 2:31 to play, Attura started NSU's comeback attempt, hitting a 3-pointer and knocking down a pair of free throws to get NSU to within two possessions.

Attura pulled NSU within three with 22 seconds left by hitting three free throws, but Kristy Parker knocked down the first of two free throws with 18 seconds to play to seal the victory.

"They shot the ball extremely well from the free-throw line," Dupuy said. "They shot the ball extremely well from 3. We didn't identify their shooters. We knew (Reed) was going to be one who can knock it down, and we didn't find her late.

"Like I told the team in the locker room, it's the little things that make teams great, not the big things. We've got to get better at those little things."
Attura finished with a game-high 25 points, two shy of her career high. Freshman Victoria Miller grabbed 16 rebounds, helping offset a 16-point, 15-rebound double-double from Valley's Ashley Beals.

Miller's 16 rebounds were the most by a Northwestern State player since Trudy Armstead grabbed 18 against Central Arkansas on Feb. 1, 2012.

Reed paced Valley with 18 points, including four 3-pointers, and four assists, the last of which set up a Kenya Arnold jumper that pushed Valley's lead to 61-52 with 2:31 to play.

Cheyenne Brown added 15 points in 19 minutes for NSU.

"(Miller) gave us extra opportunities by crashing hard," Dupuy said. "Her effort is tremendous. We're going to continue to work on her skill-set. She works hard every single day. She's very athletic, very strong. She's the hardest worker in the weight room. Sixteen rebounds off the bench is tremendous. The next step is to get her to finish in the paint, and she finished a couple in the second half and knocked down some free throws. She was definitely a bright spot."

After finishing a stretch of four games in seven days, the Lady Demons will return to action Wednesday at Memphis. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m. inside Elma Neal Roane Fieldhouse.



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