Demons Turn Up the Heat To Rally Past AU

Hot-shooting in the second half allowed Northwestern to outscore Auburn 111-92 on Friday night at Auburn Arena.

Auburn, Ala.--Northwestern State burned Auburn with a three-point barrage on Friday night as the Demons (2-0) rallied in the second half to take an 111-92 basketball victory on Friday night.

The visitors, who trailed by 14 points with 16:30 to play, rallied with hot shooting. They hit 23-34 second half shots for 67.6 percent. That total included 7-11 from three point range to finish the night with 14 treys on 27 attempts.

That was a major turnaround for the Demons, who couldn't make a three-pointer in their season opener, a game in which they were 0-17 from the field in defeating Division III LeTourneau 92-76.

"That law of averages came into play," said Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy, who noted it was difficult to explain the three-point numbers from game one to game two. "It was just one of those things.

"I thought the biggest difference in the game was that we rebounded the ball in the second half," said McConathy, whose team pulled in 42 rebounds, one less than the Tigers.

Auburn hit 8-29 three-pointers and made 45.7 percent from the field.

Chris Denson led the Tigers with 29 points as he hit 12-18 field goals and pulled in nine rebounds. The senior guard added five assists and had just one turnover.

However, his big scoring night was trumped by Jalan West, who hit 10-15 field goals and 5-8 threes on the way to a 30-point night for the visitors.

"We just have to learn to finish games," Denson said, noting the zone defense the Demons switched to in the second half "kind of messed us up a little bit."

The senior said the Tigers are disappointed by losing, but credited Northwestern State with playing well. The guard predicted the Demons will be an NCAA Tournament team again this season.

"They are a transition team and they got the ball out real fast," Denson said. "They always looked up for transition threes. That is mainly what they were doing. They hit a lot of contested shots.

The Tigers got 21 points from K.T. Harrell, but he struggled with his shooting. The junior guard made just 7-20 shots and 2-11 threes.

Chris Griffin came off the bench to score 13 points with the help of 3-5 shooting on treys.

Senior forward Allen Payne contributed 10 points and eight rebounds for the Tigers.

The Demons also helped themselves with an outstanding night at the foul line. They hit 25-29 attempts while the Tigers made 10-18.

Auburn coach Tony Barbee said he thought the Tigers "took their foot off the gas" after stretching their 48-39 halftime lead into double figures, something he said he warned his players they couldn't afford to do with Northwestern State's ability to score points in a hurry with its up-tempo style.

"We had way to many breakdowns (defensively) in the last 15 minutes out of our zone, out of our man, but the majority of it came out of transition," Barbee said. "That is where they got the momentum. It goes back to the defensive end. It wasn't sharp for 40 minutes."

Auburn freshman point guard Tajh Shamsid-Deen drives to the basket. He scored nine points and added four assists to go with two turnovers.

The Demons tied the game at 73-73 with 9:29 to play on a three-pointer by Gary Stewart and took the lead for good on a layup by Zikkiteran Woodley to make the score 82-80 with 7:14 to play. After that, to the disappointment of the crowd of 5,823, the Tigers were not able to make a run after Northwestern State built the lead into double figures at 98-87 with 2:52 remaining in the game.

Starting Five: Allen Payne, Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, K.T. Harrell, Chris Denson and Tajh Shamsid-Deen.

First Half Numbers: The Tigers shot 52.6 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes to build a 48-39 lead. The Tigers shot 52.6 percent in the period while Northwestern State made 34.2 percent of their field goals. Denson led the Tigers in first half scoring with 20 points.

Stat of the Game: The Demons closed out the Tigers by making 19-21 second half free throws to go with 67.6 shooting from the field, almost doubling their first half shooting percentage.

Up Next: The Tigers return to action at home with a 7 p.m. home game on Tuesday vs. Jacksonville State.

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