The Demons (19-8 overall, 13-3 in the Southland) need a win to assure themselves of a bye into the semifinals of next week's Southland Conference Tournament. After last Saturday's last-second 64-63 defeat at league-leading Stephen F. Austin, Northwestern is a game back of the Lumberjacks and a game ahead of third-place Oral Roberts, but will prevail in a tiebreaker with ORU for tournament seeding.
The Islanders (6-21, 5-11) have won their last two games and four of their last seven. Their worst defeat was an 82-71 decision at home on Feb. 19 at the hands of the Demons.
"They're playing their best basketball," said NSU coach Mike McConathy. "They're not going to the conference tournament, so this is their statement week, playing us and at SFA with a chance to finish the season strong by beating the top teams. They're athletic and well coached. We had an exceptional first half and held them off down the stretch in the first game, but it was tough."
The game follows a 5:30 women's matchup between the schools. The doubleheader will host NSU's annual Gumbo Cookoff with proceeds helping the American Cancer Society.
Northwestern wraps up its home season Saturday afternoon with a doubleheader in Prather Coliseum against Sam Houston State, tipping at 1 with the women's game and with the men's game following at 3 or later.
The Demons will play for the second straight game without leading scorer DeQuan Hicks (14.2 points, 5.9 rebounds per game, 13th nationally with 58.3 percent shooting aim), who suffered an ankle injury in practice last week.
"Because we use a 10-man rotation, we hope and expect that other guys can step up their contributions to hopefully offset some of the production that DeQuan has provided," said McConathy. "We handled the adjustment OK at SFA and hope that we improve upon that going forward for as long as we have to play without him."
Senior forward James Hulbin scored 20 points and had eight rebounds at SFA, and is averaging 12.5 points and 6.0 rebounds. Senior guard Shamir Davis scores 11.9 per game while freshman guard Jalan West is at 10.6, along with averaging 5.2 assists and 2.4 steals. The Demons lead the country with their 82.9 scoring average.
The game will be broadcast on the Demon Sports Network flagshipped by 100.7 KZBL FM in Natchitoches and including 92.1 KSYR FM in Shreveport and 99.9 KTEZ FM in Many. Live video and audio streaming is available through the NSUDemons.com website.
Saturday is also the Demons' Basketball Centennial Celebration Day with former team members reuniting, and being introduced during the game along with members of the Demons' All-Century Team.