THIBODAUX, La. – The Nicholls State University men’s basketball team drained seven free throws in the final 1:02 to defeat Stephen F. Austin Wednesday night at Stopher Gym.
The Colonels (9-7, 2-1 SLC) had lost 11 consecutive contests against the Lumberjacks (8-6, 1-1).
“You know Stephen F. Austin has always kind of been the standard,” Nicholls head coach Austin Claunch said. “They’ve been picked to win the league regularly over the past decade. For our team I think it should definitely show us that we can compete with anybody in the league. I believe our guys can come out and compete with anybody. But if you don’t play well then you can lose to anybody.”
Nicholls limited SFA to two field goals and forced three turnovers during its first 17 possessions, which allowed the Colonels to build a healthy 18-4 margin to during the first 7:31 of the game. Although the opposition constantly struck back, Nicholls always came up with an answer.
The Colonels withstood an 8-2 spurt and the two sides traded six-point runs that resulted in a 35-27 Nicholls edge at the break.
The Lumberjacks next attempt to ignite a comeback came at the start of the second half as they tallied 10 of the first 12 points to tie the game at 37. Kevon Harris converted an and-one to give the visiting side its first lead at 40-39 with 15:12 to go, but the Colonels countered again, this time with an 11-2 run that was concluded by five straight from junior Brandon Moore Jr.
Harris baited another and-one from Nicholls later in the second half to put SFA within one with 4:15 to go. Junior Danny Garrick responded by canning a triple from the right wing following a beautiful feed from sophomore Kevin Johnson.
The Lumberjacks would not go away, tying the battle at 69 following a dunk and two free throws from Karl Nicholas. The two sides then traded buckets on a Moore Jr. up-and-under and a Shannon Bogues layup to tie it at 71.
Moore Jr. was fouled on the next possession and sank two freebies. Although Johnson was 1-for-11 from the field, the Thibodaux native showed why he rarely comes off the court during SFA’s next possession. Following an offensive rebound, Johnson stripped a driving Nicholas and made two free throws that handed the Colonels a two-possession lead and helped seal the win.
“We had a good plan,” Claunch said. “I thought we executed. We did the things you have to do to beat them. The biggest thing that we didn’t do was turn the ball over. To only have 12 turnovers against what they do – it just speaks a lot about the poise of our guys and the focus that they had.”
Moore Jr. set career highs in points (25), field goals made (nine) and free throws (five). Peppers and fellow graduate transfer Jeremiah Jefferson chipped in 15 points apiece. Peppers dished out seven assists and committed zero turnovers.
Harris fronted the Jacks with a game-high 30 points and nine rebounds.
Nicholls concludes its two-game homestand against Houston Baptist. Tipoff is scheduled for approximately 3:30 p.m.
Article courtesy of Nicholls State Sports Information.