Clifton Lee of Northwestern State drove to the basket against Nick DeWitz of Oregon State last night.
OSU can't handle Demons
Northwestern State takes out another big-conference foe to advance to the semifinals
The Northwestern State Demons, not to be confused with the similarly named school up north, have made a name for themselves by bedeviling their opponents from big-name conferences this season.
The Demons had already beaten teams from the Southeastern Conference (Mississippi State) and Big 12 (Oklahoma State) entering the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic, and added a Pac-10 school to its list of victims last night with a 72-61 win over Oregon State at the Stan Sheriff Center.
"It gives us national recognition, because everybody was like, 'Northwestern State who?' " NSU forward Clifton Lee said. "Everybody knows Northwestern in Chicago."
Northwestern State (7-2) earned a spot in tonight's Rainbow Classic semifinals and will face Iowa State at 5 p.m. Hawaii plays Colorado State at 7:30.
Oregon State (4-4) falls into the consolation bracket and plays South Florida at 1 p.m.
The Demons from Natchitoches, La., returned five starters from last year's 21-12 team that won the Southland Conference regular-season title, and got a balanced performance last night to pull away from the Beavers.
"When you look at the places that they've won, they're a very good basketball team," OSU coach Jay John said.
NSU guard Kerwin Forges came off the
bench to post a perfect shooting night. The senior made all five of his shots from the field, two from 3-point range, and both of his free throws to finish with 14 points.
Guards Luke Rogers and Jermaine Wallace had 11 points each. Lee, NSU's leading scorer, had eight points, five rebounds and three assists.
Oregon State's Lamar Hurd went to the basket against Northwestern State's Keenan Jones yesterday.
NSU coach Mike McConathy also praised the play of center Alfonse Dyer, who came up with several key rebounds as Oregon State mounted a comeback in the second half.
"We've had great balance," McConathy said. "Somebody else will step up tomorrow."
The Demons defeated Mississippi State 76-75 in overtime on Nov. 26, and ended Oklahoma State's 44-game home winning streak with a 68-64 victory on Dec. 5 as part of a five-game string of early-season road games.
Not bad for a group of seven NSU seniors who went 6-21 as freshmen three years ago.
"This group's been together a long time, they've taken some knocks, but they've learned to believe in themselves and believe in what we do as a team," McConathy said. "When you do that you have an opportunity to beat a bunch of teams."
Said Lee: "We've been together through thick and thin and it made us stronger."
The Demons built a 33-26 lead at halftime against Oregon State and stretched it to 11 on a layup by Lee with 15:53 left in the game.
Oregon State battled back to cut the deficit to three at 54-51 with 9:15 left. But the Beavers would get no closer as the Demons were able to answer every time OSU threatened.
John pointed to OSU's 20 turnovers as a key to the outcome. The Beavers attempted just 16 shots in the second half.
"In the second half we shoot 50 percent from the field, but we don't get enough shots because we turned over the ball," John said.
Guard Chris Stephens led the Beavers with 17 points, and forward Nick DeWitz had 13. The seniors shot a combined 11-for-13 from the field.
Iowa State 83, South Florida 74
Rashon Clark led four Cyclones in double figures with 19 points as the Cyclones (7-3) advanced to today's semifinal against Northwestern State.
Will Blalock scored 16 points and dished out 10 assists and Clark and John Neal each nailed three 3-pointers as the Cyclones finished with a season-high 10 made from beyond the arc. Iowa State forced 25 USF turnovers and turned them into 40 points.
"That's what we do," Iowa State coach Wayne Morgan said. "Steal the ball and put it in the hole. Last year we averaged 17 (takeaways) a game and scored a lot of points off of them."
McHugh Mattis scored a game-high 23 points for South Florida (5-4) and made all 10 of his shots, setting a tournament record for highest field-goal percentage with a minimum of 10 shots taken. He broke the mark held by Hawaii's Thomas Louden, who shot 93 percent (13-14) against Nevada in 1979.
James Holmes added 20 points and Melvin Buckley 19 and six rebounds as the Bulls shot 61 percent for the game.
The Cyclones closed the first half with an 18-2 run in the final 4:24 as they turned a 12-point deficit into a 41-37 halftime lead. A 3-pointer by Holmes gave the Bulls a 57-55 lead with 9:30 to go, but the Cyclones responded with a 10-0 run and never trailed again. The Cyclones' bench outscored the Bulls' bench 29-2.