LeTourneau men’s basketball rolled into Natchitoches looking to battle with a Northwestern State team picked to finish fourth in a very tough Southland Conference, and the fight is what the YellowJackets would do.
LeTourneau gave the Demons everything they could handle as they led for 33 minutes. NSU made a late run to take the lead and the victory 92-87 over LETU in the final minute of the game.
“I’m proud of our team to go toe to toe with a D1 team the entire game and have a chance to win it in the end,” said head coach Dan Miller after the match. “Now the key is just to get a little better every day and be ready tomorrow against a very athletic Texas College team at their place.”
The NCAA Division I opponent didn’t intimidate the YellowJackets as they would jump out to an early lead with hot shooting from guard Sam Talbert. The junior out of Georgetown High School finished with a career-high 24 points, 21 of which came in the first half on 7 of 9 shooting (6-7 3FG). This match was the third time Talbert has made six three-point field goals in a game.
“We did a great job all game against their pressure,” said Miller. “I was pleased with the way we ran our entries and motion to find great looks today, and Sam’s shooting gave us momentum.”
Freshman Nate West brought a spark off the bench as he poured in all eight of his points in the opening period to go along with two assists.
The YellowJackets led by as many as 15 in the first half and went into the break up five (44-39) over the Demons on their home court.
In the second half, junior Alec Colhoff saw his first action of the 2016-17 season. Colhoff scored 11 points in the opening 2:30 of the second half to bust the lead open to 11. LeTourneau extended their lead to 14 at the 13:43 mark on a layup by Colhoff who finished with 15 points in the game.
The Demons’ Zeke Woodley imposed his will in the second half as he scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in the closing period. Woodley was selected to the Preseason All-Mid-Major All-America Team and was the 11th-leading scorer in the NCAA last season with 22.2 points per game.
The YellowJackets continued to fight and kept their lead until the 2:56 mark when a free throw by the Demons’ Devonte Hall tied the game at 80. Senior guard Jeff Martin would respond by getting to the rim for a huge basket to put LETU back up by two. Martin finished with 10 points and three assists.
After an NSU bucket, sophomore Bryson Erby would step up and hit a big three to put the YellowJackets back up 85-82.
Northwestern State would take their first lead since the 16:22 mark in the first half on a jumper from Woodley to go up by one, 86-85. Martin would fire back for LeTourneau with a midrange jumper to retake the lead.
The Demons’ Lane Ishmael would score the decisive basket as the 6’9 sophomore post grabbed an offensive rebound and gave NSU an 88-87 lead with 0:54 remaining. Woodley would add another jumper to extend the lead to three with 10 seconds remaining. The YellowJackets tried to push the ball up the floor to tie the game, but the pass was picked off to end the game 92-87 for Northwestern State.
“Zeek Woodley is a great player, and he made a big shot to put them up 3 with 10 seconds left,” said Miller. “I should have taken our last timeout to set something up, and we ended up turning it over. My fault on that one. We will learn from that and finish those games.”
Sophomore Caleb Loggins did a little bit of everything for the YellowJackets as the Lewisville High School product scored 13 points and dished out four assists to go along with five rebounds and four steals and one blocked the shot.
The game was an exhibition for LeTourneau who remains at 1-0 on the season as they turn their attention to Saturday’s matchup with NAIA foe, Texas College. The YellowJackets will take the short trip over to Tyler for a 2 p.m. tip-off with the Steers.