Area College Hoop Scoop: Demons hoping Sharp is on point

SPECIAL K:  Keaston Willis is red-hot from beyond the 3-point arc heading into tonight’s home contest in Ruston against Western Kentucky. (Photo by DARRELL JAMES, Louisiana Tech Athletics)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

It’s bounce-back time for the men’s basketball teams at Grambling, Louisiana Tech and Northwestern State, trying to rebound from losses, but only the Bulldogs will benefit from homecourt advantage.

Tech is home Thursday night, while NSU and Grambling each have two-game road assignments ahead.

New NSU coach Corey Gipson is maintaining a big-picture focus despite the Demons (10-8, 2-3) dropping six of their last eight games on the heels of a seven-game pre-Christmas win streak.

“We haven’t lost a game this year,” he said in an video interview. “The only time you lose is when you don’t learn. The only time I’ve been concerned about this team is when we were on a seven-game winning streak. Sometimes when you have a perceived win by the layperson, it’s hard to articulate to personnel and get them to understand some things they need to change and work on.

“After a perceived loss – not a loss by us – sometimes it’s easier to get a person to understand what they need to do.”


NORTHWESTERN STATE:  Gipson’s Demons aren’t asking point guard DeMarcus Sharp to be more productive, just more aggressive. Sharp leads Northwestern in scoring (15.2 ppg) and assists (77) while sharing the team lead in steals (30) and blocks (10). He ranks in the top 10 in the Southland Conference in assists (3rd), free-throw percentage (82.6, 4th), scoring (6th), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5, 6th), blocks per game (0.6, T-7th), steals (30, T-9th) and rebounding (5.5, 10th).

“I don’t mind saying this publicly, because the opponent also knows this in regards to how we play – when DeMarcus Sharp is the aggressor in the game, we’re a different team,” Gipson said. “Sometimes, people can try to dissect the game and think something may need to be tweaked when maybe all that needs to happen is DeMarcus becomes the aggressor.

“If we’re in a game and DeMarcus Sharp has one or two attempts in the first half – it’s not because the defense did it – it’s because he decided to not take shots. What I’ll tell you is if DeMarcus Sharp has eight or 10 attempts in the first half, everything is going to be different.”

Next game: Tonight, 7:30 in Hammond against Southland Conference co-leader Southeastern Louisiana (9-8, 4-1).

LOUISIANA TECH:  The Bulldogs (10-8, 3-4) suffered their first home loss this season when UAB notched an 81-74 win at the Thomas Assembly Center on Saturday. Tech is getting hot shooting from distance by Keaston Willis, 14 of his last 23 from behind the arc while averaging 16 points in the last four games. Cobi Williams continues to set the tone for the Bulldogs with his 19-point average. Williams (27 points) and Willis (23) had season scoring highs against UAB, with freshman Isaiah Crawford scoring a career-best 25 at North Texas. That trio is averaging 47 points in Conference USA contests.

Next game:  Tonight at 8 in the TAC vs. Western Kentucky (11-7, 3-4) on CBS Sports Network.

GRAMBLING: The Tigers (10-7, 3-2) lost an 81-73 battle at Southern on Saturday to snap a three-game SWAC winning streak. The outcome overshadowed two brilliant individual performances. Shawndarius Cowart posted a triple-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, several going to 25-point scorer Cam Christon.

Next game: Grambling goes to Mississippi Valley (2-18, 1-5) Saturday at 6.


LOUISIANA TECH: Two wins last week lifted the Techsters (11-6, 4-3) into fourth in Conference USA. Senior Keiunna Walker was named CUSA Player of the Week after averaging 24.5 points, including a 13-for-16 performance at the free throw line in a season-best 26-point outing at UAB. Walker is 10th nationally in made free throws (94) and 12th in trips to the line (120), and has posted four straight 20-point performances. Tech leads CUSA by shooting 45.9 percent from the floor and is 9-0 when it holds opponents under 60 points.

Next game:  Saturday at Western Kentucky (8-8, 5-2) in a 6:30 CT contest.

NORTHWESTERN STATE:  The Lady Demons (7-8, 3-2) completed a series sweep of Nicholls to move over .500 in league play and have won three straight. They got a boost Saturday in Thibodaux when former Grambling guard Candace Parramore returned from an ankle injury and poured in 18 points.

Next game:  Thursday, 5:30 at Southeastern Louisiana (8-7, 3-2).

GRAMBLING:  The more they score, the better their chances. Seems simple. For the Lady Tigers (4-12, 3-2) five of their last six defeats, including both in SWAC play, have come when they’ve been held under 50 points.

Next game:  Saturday at 4 at Mississippi Valley (2-15, 0-6).

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