#4 Northwestern St. 96, #5 McNeese 89
The dynamic duo of junior Jalan West and sophomore Zeek Woodley once again carried Northwestern State to a dominant offensive performance as the Demons eliminated McNeese to advance to the Southland Tournament semifinals. The Demons will get one more crack at top-seed, and MMM Power 15 #4 Stephen F. Austin on Friday.
Woodley scored 34 points, making 14 of his 17 field goal attempts. He added nine rebounds. West, who was scoreless at halftime, ended with 24 points (9-of-12) 12 assists and seven rebounds. He committed just one turnover. Ta’Jon Welcome added 14 points, while Sabri Thompson chipped in 12 off the bench. As a team, the Demons made 14 three point field goals, tying a Southland Tournament record.
Northwestern State tried to run away from McNeese several times, but the Cowboys got an inspired effort from senior Kevin Hardy and kept trying to claw back into the game. The Demons finally broke the game wide open building the lead over 20 with six minutes to play, then coasted in from there.
Hardy scored 25 points with nine rebounds and five assists. He played all 40 minutes. Desharick Guidry scored 20 points with 15 rebounds. Keelan Garrett scored 20 points, making six three pointers.
Northwestern State and Stephen F. Austin have quite the recent history. Two years ago, the Demons knocked off top seeded SFA to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Last season, SFA beat Northwestern State on a Jacob Parker dunk in the closing seconds during the regular season, then knocked them out of the SLC Tourney in the semifinal round en route to their NCAA success.
#3 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 61, #7 New Orleans 58
A strong second half performance from the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders ended the New Orleans Privateers return to post-season play, and advanced the Islanders into the Southland semifinals and a matchup with the #2 seed Sam Houston State Bearkats .
New Orleans, behind an explosive start from sophomore Nate Frye, led for most of the first half. Early in the second half, the Privateers broke open a 42-34 lead with 15:17 to play. That’s when the Islanders went to work. Dynamic senior point guard John Jordan and the Islanders defense began to take command and over the next nine-plus minutes A&M-CC outscored UNO 15-2. During that stretch, A&M-CC forced 11 missed shots and three turnovers.
Over the final 6:20 the Privateers, specifically Frye, battled back and forth with the Islanders but they could never get back over the hump. Down by one with 40 seconds to play Frye missed a driving layup attempt in traffic. Down by two with 15 seconds remaining, Frye was called for a travel. Down three in the closing seconds, Kevin Brown missed on a three point attempt and the Islanders had survived.
Frye led New Orleans with 20 points. Freshman Travin Thibodeaux had his second excellent game in the Southland Tourney scoring eight points while grabbing 12 rebounds. Brown, who scored 24 in the opening round win, shot just 1-for-9 and scored five points.
As usual, Jordan led the way for A&M-CC filling the stat page with 22 points, six boards, five steals, and four assists. Rashawn Thomas had 13 points and seven rebounds. Bryce Douvier scored nine, including the Islanders only three of the game which broke a 44-44 tie with just under eight minutes to play.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Sam Houston State are very similar teams and provide a very evenly matched semifinal. The teams split their two meetings this season, both winning close games at home. The Islanders were the only team in the Southland to beat either SFA or Sam Houston this year, and they beat them both.