The storied season of the 2005-06 Northwestern State men's basketball team, also known as the "Demons of Destiny," has been chosen by fans as the Southland Conference's Greatest Moment in the sport.
In balloting on the Southland's Facebook page (www.facebook/southlandconference), the "Demons of Destiny" outpaced a field of outstanding candidates vying for the honor of greatest men's basketball moment.
The Northwestern State men's basketball team and athletic department was honored by the Southland Conference at the Merrell Center during the Demons' Southland Conference Tournament semifinal contest vs. Sam Houston State Friday night.
"How wonderful it is that the impact of Jermaine Wallace's 3-pointer to defeat Iowa still resonates seven years later and, in fact, has resulted in that ‘Demons of Destiny' win being named the defining men's basketball moment in Southland Conference history," said Greg Burke, Northwestern State's director or athletics. "I said it then and still maintain that victory was good for Northwestern State but, more importantly, showcased nationwide that the Southland plays a very quality caliber of basketball. That win made a positive statement on behalf of all Southland basketball coaches, student-athletes, administrators, and fans."
The Demons made it very clear that something special was in the works early in the 2005-06 season with early wins at Oklahoma State, at Mississippi State and vs. Oregon State. This was only a precursor to how the Demons would go on to dominate the Southland Conference schedule with a 15-1 mark, earning the right to host the Southland tournament in Natchitoches.
The Demons rolled to three more wins in the tournament to secure the Southland's automatic bid to the NCAA championship. Garnering only a No. 14 seed in the Atlanta Regional, the Demons were matched with the formidable task of facing No. 3 seed and Big Ten tournament champion Iowa at Auburn Hills, Mich. The game didn't start favorably for the Demons, who fell behind 18-4, before rallying to take a brief 21-20 lead before trailing at the half, 28-24. The Hawkeyes rebuilt a daunting lead in the second half as well, stretching their advantage to 54-37 with 8:29 left to play.
Just when it looked like the Demons' season was coming to an end, NSU's Clifton Lee went on an amazing run, scoring 16 points in a 20-6 spurt that pulled narrowed Iowa's advantage to 60-57 with less than two minutes to play. As the game reached its waning moments, a Hawkeye free throw gave Iowa a 63-61 lead with 14 seconds left, leading to one of the greatest moments in NCAA tournament history.
The Demons had an initial shot at tying the game when Kervin Forges' two-point attempt from on top of the 3-point line in front of the NSU bench rattled off the rim high and into the hands of NSU's Jermaine Wallace, in rebounding position outside the left side of the lane. Wallace quickly dribbled outside and wth three seconds left, stroked a fade-away three-point attempt from the corner that found nothing but net with half a second remaining as he fell out of bounds. The basket gave the Demons a 64-63 lead, and following a desperation half-court miss by the Hawkeyes, Northwestern State owned one of the greatest comebacks in the history of March Madness.
Despite a 67-54 second round loss to West Virginia, the "Demons of Destiny" ignited a storm of national media attention for the program and the university that's become historic. The Northwestern State-Iowa game telecast is often replayed on ESPN Classic, and the game was ranked No. 22 among the "25 Best Tourney Moments" in the past 25 years by SI.com editors. ESPN.com editors listed Wallace's shot among the "Top 16 Game-Ending Plays" in the last 30 years of NCAA tournament history. The winning play also won the 2006 Pontiac Game Changing Performance award for that year's tournament. Fan voting resulted in a $105,000 general scholarship donation by General Motors/Pontiac to Northwestern State.
Burke was appreciative of the efforts of Demon fans, NSU campus personnel and all those who took time to vote in the Southland contest to support the 2005-06 "Demons of Destiny."
"As was the case seven years ago when the shot to beat Iowa was named the 'Pontiac Game Changing Moment' of the entire NCAA Tournament by a vote of the fans, kudos again go to two different groups for enabling NSU to receive this most recent recognition - the loyal and appreciative NSU Demon fans who rallied to vote and those with no allegiance to NSU who knew a great play when they saw it and also voted," he said.
The "Demons of Destiny" earned the fans' vote over some of the most prominent occurrences in Southland history, including Louisiana Tech's nationally ranked and NCAA Sweet 16 team in 1985, Lamar's incredible 80-game home winning streak from 1978-84, as well as the Cardinals' great run of four straight NCAA Tourney first round wins from 1979-83. Also included on the fan ballot was Dwight "Bo" Lamar's scoring feats at Louisiana-Lafayette in the early 1970s, a spectacular run of superstars in the 70s, a great streak of NCAA postseason success in the 1960s at the College Division level, the era of Karl Malone and Joe Dumars in the 1980s, and the great coaching success of Louisiana-Monroe's Mike Vining.
As part of its 50th anniversary commemoration, the Southland Conference will continue to acknowledge the league's Greatest Moments in football, women's athletics, and other sports later in 2013.