Senior guard Shamir Davis matched his season high with 24 points in his final Prather Coliseum appearances while freshman point guard Jalan West had 11 points, 12 assists and no turnovers to trigger Northwestern State's 84-73 Southland Conference win over Sam Houston State as Demons' coach Mike McConathy became Louisiana's career collegiate coaching wins leader.
The victory by the Demons (21-8 overall, 15-3 in the Southland) gave McConathy his 573rd in 30 years, the last 14 at NSU (221 wins) after 16 (with 352 wins) at Bossier Parish Community College in his hometown of Bossier City. He passed Grambling legend Fred Hobdy, a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame member who won 572 contests in 30 seasons before retiring in 1986.
The win came as Northwestern staged its Demon Basketball Centennial Celebration, with lettermen and the 100-man All-Century Team, along with 21 honorary captains, introduced during timeouts in the game.
McConathy's milestone was commemorated moments after the final buzzer as NSU athletic director Greg Burke unveiled a banner to be hung in the arena celebrating the record-setting triumph. Dozens of former players joined the current Demons on the court congratulating their coach.
Junior guard Brison White used perfect 6-for-6 aim, including a pair of 3-pointers, to score 15 points while senior forward Gary Roberson added 11 in his final homecourt appearance. The Demons sank 51 percent of their shots led by Davis, who drilled 8-of-11 overall including 4-for-5 on 3-pointers and added 4-of-5 free throw aim.
West's 12 assists are the most by a Southland Conference player this year. He is a leading candidate for league Freshman of the Year honors and ranks 58th nationally in assists with a 5.1 average.
The Bearkats (15-16, 8-10), who trailed nearly the entire game but briefly rallied into a one-point lead with 13:08 remaining, got 16 points by James Thomas, 14 from Will Bond, 12 by Paul Baxter and 10 from Marquel McKinney.
Sam Houston stayed in range until a Roberson layup and consecutive 3-pointers from White and forward Marvin Frazier jolted NSU ahead 71-61 with 5:34 remaining. The Bearkats got no closer than eight points afterward.
The Demons already had locked up a double bye into the Southland Conference Tournament semifinals next Friday night at 7:30. As the second seed, finishing one game behind regular-season winner Stephen F. Austin, NSU will face either third-seeded Oral Roberts, sixth-seeded Sam Houston or No. 7 Central Arkansas in that semifinal. SHSU and UCA will collide next Wednesday evening and the survivor will play ORU on Thursday night in Katy, Texas.
The tournament championship is next Saturday night at 7:30 in the Merrill Center. The Demons are bidding for their seventh tourney finals appearance in McConathy's 14 seasons, and their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2006.