Ja Havens' debut at Northeastern State got off to a sour note Saturday with the RiverHawks failing to make a late comeback and dropped their season opener to Emporia State 76-66 inside the NSU Event Center.
Red Oak's Brad Davis came off the bench to lead NSU (0-1, 0-1 MIAA) with 19 points to leave the senior at 1,000 career points in-between his time in Tahlequah and Eastern Oklahoma College. Newcomer Rashad Perkins had 16, and Caleb Williams scored 13 in his debut. Emporia State lived at the arc and sank ten treys and led nearly the entirety of the game to open MIAA play at 3-0 for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
Thanks to 14 forced turnovers, NSU showed signs of an offensive spark but finished the night shooting 21-for-58 and were 5-for-23 at the arc.
"We've been off as much as we've been on since October 15. We lost our only scrimmage, so that was the first time we've faced anybody else, and it showed," said Havens. "We did not shoot the ball well; we are a much better shooting team than what we shot over 40-minutes tonight."
A slow start for NSU out of the gates and a 10-0 run by the Hornets put the RiverHawks in a 12-3 hole until Davis sank back-to-back treys to get them back within two by the 12:27 mark. The RiverHawks' offense continued to sputter, with Davis accounting for 11 of the team's 27 points. Heading into the intermission, they shot 9-for-27 on the floor and trailed the Hornets by ten.
NSU continued to trail in the second half as the Hornets pulled away out as many as 15 points with just over 12 minutes remaining. NSU's run of six unanswered points got them within seven following a Williams jumper with 9:49 left in regulation. The door would be cracked open for the RiverHawks, and a suffocating defense allowed six quick points. Davis sank his fourth three-pointer for the night with 1:58 left to put them back within five, 70-65. Emporia State responded with a three-pointer a minute later to close the door on NSU.
On the glass, NSU was out-rebounded 43-to-33; Obi Agu led the squad with eight boards.
The RiverHawks will remain close to home next week for their first road trip and visit Joplin this Thursday, Dec. 2, to face Missouri Southern and then Pittsburg State on Saturday. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, fans will not be allowed to attend the game at Missouri Southern.