NATCHITOCHES – McNeese State made the Southland Conference favorite Northwestern State work for a 85-74 win Thursday night as the Demons broke open a close game in the final three minutes to get the win.
McNeese (7-15, 5-5 SLC) trailed just 73-69 with 3:32 to play when Northwestern State (10-11, 6-4) used its quickness and speed to put together a run to grab a 10-point lead with less than two minutes to play.
"We had no answer for (DeQuan) Hicks and Jalen (West)," said McNeese head coach Dave Simmons. "We couldn't stop them in transition."
West led all scorers with 30 points with eight assists while Hicks scored 19 points to go along with 13 rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass.
"We gave up too many offensive rebounds," Simmons said. "That's something we've been doing a good job ourselves lately was getting the offensive boards. But Hicks really did a good job of getting in there and putting some back for baskets."
The Demons scored 15 second-chance points and held a 45-37 advantage on the glass.
Ledrick Eackles had one of his better shooting nights of the season to lead McNeese with 23 points while Craig McFerrin continued his recent hot streak by scoring 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting and pulled down seven rebounds.
Kevin Hardy just missed out on a double-double with nine points and a season-high nine assists.
The two teams played to a 37-37 halftime tie with neither squad leading by more than five points in the half.
McNeese built a four-point lead two minutes into the second half following an Eackles three-point goal to make it a 42-38 game but the Demons scored eight straight points behind two Patrick Robinson three-pointers to go up 46-42 with 15:34 to play.
The Cowboys tied it following two free throws each from Desharick Guidry and McFerrin and after a Hicks layup put the Demons up by two with 13:46 to play, Eackles sank another trey to give McNeese a 49-48 lead with 13:25 to go. It was the last lead the Cowboys would claim.
Brison White, who finished with 13 points for the Demons, sank a 3-pointer and after Eackles tied the game on a jumper at 51-51 with 12:33 to go, West scored five consecutive points, three of those on offensive rebounds, to give NSU its largest lead at five points.
McNeese hung around and kept the deficit from two to five points over the next seven minutes before the Demons broke open a 73-69 game on a 12-5 run to close out the game.
The Cowboys outshot the Demons by a 45.8 percent to 40.3 percent margin. After being held to 32.5 percent shooting in the first half, NSU came back to hit 48.6 percent in the second frame.
McNeese made 9 of 23 from 3-point range and was 11 of 14 from the free throw line.
The Demons forced McNeese into a season-high 23 turnovers and scored 21 points off those miscues.