Down to the wire for Tigers, Demons in conference title chases

SHARP POINT:  A prime contender for Southland Conference Player of the Year, point guard DeMarcus Sharp leads Northwestern State into its regular-season finale tonight at 8 in Prather Coliseum. (Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

The next 48 hours are vital to conference championship hopes for the men’s basketball teams at Grambling and Northwestern State.

Grambling (20-8, 13-3) controls its destiny in the Southwestern Athletic Conference race. The Tigers got the break they needed and held up their end of the deal to move into a first-place tie with Alcorn with two games left. The Braves faltered at home last week, 75-71 to Prairie View.

Grambling is home to wrap up the regular season Thursday and Saturday, hosting fifth-place Alabama A&M (9-7 in the SWAC) before finishing with a visit from also-ran Alabama State.

Northwestern (20-10, 12-5) missed its chance to control its fate atop the Southland Conference, falling 83-75 Saturday night at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. But tonight, as the second-place Demons try to finish with a home win over Incarnate Word, NSU fans will be tracking A&M-CC’s visit to Texas A&M-Commerce, which shocked the Islanders last Thursday on the Gulf Coast. If Commerce can defend its homecourt tonight, and NSU prevails over UIW, the Islanders will have to share the crown with the Demons.


GRAMBLING:  Not since 1979-80 has Grambling recorded a 20-win season. That landmark was matched with Monday’s 66-54 win at Bethune-Cookman. Now the Tigers aim for a SWAC title, last claimed in 2017-18, but before that, not since 1988-89. As for eyes on the big prize, an NCAA Tournament berth with a SWAC Tournament win? This would be a first for Grambling. 

NORTHWESTERN STATE:  The Demons’ DeMarcus Sharp netted his fourth Southland Player of the Week award Monday after pouring in 40 points at Corpus Christi Saturday. It was the most scored by a Demon since 1977 (Billy Reynolds). Regardless of Wednesday’s outcomes in the regular-season finales, NSU will be the No. 2 seed in next week’s Southland Tournament at Lake Charles, and has a double bye into the second semifinal game next Tuesday night. The championship game tips at 4 o’clock next Wednesday afternoon. 

LOUISIANA TECH:  At home Thursday night, the Bulldogs have a real shot to snap their six-game losing streak. Tech (13-16, 6-12) hosts Florida International (13-16, 7-11). Saturday’s finale brings Conference USA champion Florida Atlantic (26-3, 16-2) to the Thomas Assembly Center. Tech took FAU to overtime last month on the road.


LOUISIANA TECH:  The Lady Techsters’ five-game win streak ended Saturday but just barely to nationally-ranked Middle Tennessee, who got the game-winner with four seconds left to prevail 61-59. Tech (17-11, 10-8) is looking like the team nobody wants to face in the CUSA Tournament March 8-11. Tech travels to FIU and FAU to wrap up the regular season. 

NORTHWESTERN STATE: The Lady Demons (11-16, 7-10) aren’t assured of a Southland Conference Tournament berth as they tip off at home this evening at 5:30 against one of the league’s hotter teams, UIW (14-13, 9-8) — which is on a five-game win streak including last Thursday’s meeting in San Antonio. Edge for NSU: the Lady Demons are 10-3 at home.  A loss doesn’t necessarily end the season for the Lady Demons, depending on results involving the three other teams shooting for the last three slots in the eight-team tournament field. 

GRAMBLING:  The Lady Tigers (9-18, 8-8) won their games at FAMU and Bethune-Cookman to bolster their bid to make the eight-team SWAC Tournament bracket. Good thing since they face two of the three best teams in the league, second-place Alabama Sate and third-place Alabama A&M, at home this week.

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