The Demons fell to 7-6. And they fell hard, too, thanks to the bigger, stronger, and just plain better Bulldog frontcourt. Most notably Moultrie as he notched his seventh and maybe most impressive so far double-double.
"It was one of those games I thought I could dominate because they were small in the paint," Moultrie said. "But I have that mindset every game."
Whether mind or matter, Moultrie was far too much for Northwestern State's overmatched post players to cope with. What stood out most though is that Moultrie didn't go looking for shots; just missed shots. Because that proved his most productive path to points as he turned rebounds into instant baskets.
Yes, Moultrie said, he has done this sort of thing before. "But I haven't had one of those in a long time." He was 8-of-11 from the floor overall, and hit all eight of his free throw tries. Of the 14 rebounds, eleven were on the offensive end.
The flip-side to all Moultrie's putback points was that teammate attempts had to be missed in the first place. "We didn't shoot it very well," Coach Rick Stansbury noted, as his team was 46% for the game. "There were a lot of missed shots, and no question Arnett went and got a bunch of them. Arnett has a special nose for that basketball."
Stansbury was referring to Lewis' familiar self-effacing act when he would pass up good chances for baskets. One such case came midway of the second half when the ball was delivered to Lewis on the baseline, a stride from the goal. "I see somebody open and throw it, Dee (Bost) asked why didn't you shoot?" Lewis admitted.
"I said OK, I'll score the next one. When he threw it to me, I dunked!"
Point guard Bost had eight points and small forward Rodney Hood 11 more, including three treys. But they were a combined 7-of-26 from the floor, not nearly up to their usual efficiency. Starting guard Jalen Steele was 1-of-5 himself. Moultrie negated many of the misses of course.
The Demons were led by guards Shamir Davis with 15 points and Louis Ellis with 11.
State made smart use of superior size right from the start, with Sidney and Moultrie combining for thirteen of the points towards a 15-9 lead at 14:00. And even when the big Dogs rotated, Lewis kept it up with a dunk of his own. Meanwhile a combination of good Dog defense and awful Demon accuracy meant 3-of-20 shooting through 7:59.
The Bulldog lead first reached twenty points as Bost scored six of his team's eight points in one stretch, including a runout-dunk. By halftime the margin was down to 41-27 as both sides got sloppy and the refs generally let everything go.
Northwestern apparently had the better halftime adjustments as they opened the new period on a 12-4 tear, including treys from Ellis and Robinson to cut their deficit to 45-39. They weren't quite as over-sized at this point either. "We missed Sid's body in the second half, we had to play small," Stansbury said. Not for too long, though.
Because Moultrie hit free throws to slow the surge, and Steele was left open for his one make of the night, a threeball. Consecutive rebound baskets from Lewis and Moultrie gave State the momentum back more or less the rest of the way. The Demons did have a short spurt left and pulled within 62-52 before Dog guards Bost and DeVille Smith answered with driving runs to the goal and Hood drilled a threefer.
From there it was just a matter of when Stansbury could slip the gold team onto the court, which he did the last two minutes. None were able to score as Northwestern State did a few times to make the final margin of defeat somewhat respectable.
‘I thought our team got out to a big lead, and from that point on I told them we kind of coasted," said Stansbury. "We had our bags packed and were thinking about going home. But at the same time I'm glad to get the win."
A win watched by 6,330, not just one of the best crowds to watch this annual inter-semester event in years but also an involved throng. Having two local boys on the floor and another in-state star returning to the site of his 2011 high school state title helped. But largely it was to see a top-twenty State squad that only improves with each win.
"I thought we had a great crowd here, this is the reason why we come play in Jackson," said Stansbury.
Now the Bulldogs can finish packing for a short holiday break. And if their minds wander to the next game, well, that's understandable. State is booked for a December 28 date against another ranked opponent, taking on Baylor in Dallas. They've already beaten one ranked team and a couple of other big-name foes, but the Big XII Bears are how the Bulldogs will measure their fall semester schedule before hitting SEC play.
"I'm looking forward to it," Moultrie said. "But, I'll worry about it when the time comes."