Janelle Perez scored 16 points and Jasmine Bradley added 12, including two pressure-packed free throws with 12 seconds remaining Saturday after a pair of defensive stops in the final minute by Northwestern State helped lift the Lady Demons over visiting Central Arkansas 52-47 in Southland Conference women's basketball.
Nursing a 48-47 edge on defense in the waning seconds, Northwestern forced two straight tie balls after post feeds to UCA star Megan Herbert, the second with 14 seconds remaining. The Sugar Bears retained possession and 79 percent free throw shooter Courtney Duever drew a foul on the inbounds play, but missed the front side of a 1-and-1 opportunity with NSU's Bradley rebounding and getting fouled.
Bradley drained both of her free throws to push NSU ahead 50-47. UCA's Britney Gowans missed a bid to tie the game with a 3-pointer with four seconds remaining, and Perez rebounded, was fouled and sank two free throws with a second left to clinch the outcome.
Their second straight victory over a conference foe with a winning record raised the Lady Demons to 9-13 overall, 5-7 in the Southland. UCA dipped to 12-10 and 6-6 in league play as Herbert, the conference's leading scorer with an 18.7 average that matches her career average, was limited to 12 points on 3-of-12 shooting.
Keisha Lee also scored 12 for Northwestern, which has already topped last year's season wins total by three. Jasmine Upchurch contributed 10 points.
Duever led the Sugar Bears with 16. NSU edged the taller foes 31-29 on the boards, with Bradley and Arianne Ausmer each snagging nine rebounds, a game-high total equaled by UCA's Duever.
Northwestern shot 42 percent overall, but 52 percent after halftime following a season-best 62 percent outing Thursday in an upset of Oral Roberts. UCA led 18-17 halfway through Saturday's game.
"It was a pretty sluggish first half but we kept our poise through some pretty frustrating droughts," said first-year NSU co-head coach Brooke Stoehr. "Janelle Perez did a very nice job of running our offense and setting up others to score, or scoring herself."
The Lady Demons, who trailed by six in the first half, opened their biggest lead at 44-35 on a Perez 3-pointer with 4:27 remaining. Duever led a quick UCA comeback within 44-42 with 2:49 to go, and a Gowans 3-pointer with 1:26 to go tightened the score to 48-47 NSU.
But NSU's defense, with Perez making a steal and helping create the two tie balls, kept the Sugar Bears off the board for the final 87 seconds.
All nine Lady Demons wins have come by 10 or less. They are 3-1 in league play in games decided in the final minute, including both wins this week.
NSU will play three times on the road, beginning Thursday at Southeastern Louisiana, before its next homecourt appearance Feb. 23 in a non-conference game against New Orleans.