Northwestern State played arguably its best 32 minutes of the season Wednesday as the Demons built a 16-point lead against second-place Nicholls.
But the Colonels pieced together a massive run to end the game and hand the Demons a 73-69 loss to snap NSU’s four-game winning streak.
Nicholls (18-9, 12-4 Southland Conference) scored 24 of the last 28 points in the final seven-and-a-half minutes as the Colonels avoided a sweep to NSU. In Thibodaux earlier this season, the Demons erased a four-point lead with 11 seconds remaining.
“Nicholls did an incredible job at the end of the game, and they go on a 24-4 run,” “We didn’t do the little things we needed to do to be able to finish the game.
“We truly played 32 minutes of some of the best basketball we’ve played, and it’s not like we fell asleep at the wheel, but we got tentative. We didn’t attack with authority. We’ve got to be tougher in physical games.”
NSU (12-13, 9-7 SLC) remains in fifth place just one game out of a bye (Sam Houston State is 10-6) with four games remaining.
The Demons haven’t clinched a tournament spot yet with ninth-place Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (6-9 SLC) two-and-a-half games back. NSU doesn’t play this weekend before heading to league front-runner Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday.
Sophomore guard Trenton Massner scored a career-high 22 points on 9-10 shooting and 4-4 from 3-point range against Nicholls.
Massner helped NSU build its lead early in the second half, scoring 11 points of a 19-4 run to lead 60-45. The Wapello, Iowa, native made three of his four 3-pointers during the stretch as NSU drained nine of its 14 long-range attempts, but finished 9-19.
“We can take the positives from the first 32 minutes where we played really well, running in transition, moving the ball,” Massner said. “We have to close out games, get stops and get buckets down the stretch.
“My teammates were finding me. I hit a corner three early, and in the second half, my teammates were getting me open looks in transition. But we’ve got to get back to work and be ready for Stephen F. Austin in a week.”
Nicholls scored just four points in a nearly 10-minute stretch that helped NSU compile its advantage.
But in that crucial late-game run, Nicholls made 7-of-9 of its field goals while NSU shot just 2-10.
The Demons also committed 12 of its 18 turnovers in the second half.
Warith Alatishe scored eight of his team-high 16 points during the run, adding to his 10 rebounds for a double-double.
Andre Jones and Lorenzo McGhee added 13 points each to pace the Colonels.
NSU’s Chudier Bile scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half as both teams started the game on fire from long range.
Nicholls made its first six 3-point attempts but finished 9-21.
NSU connected on its first four from deep, including a Jovan Zelenbaba bank shot.
Nicholls led 28-24 before NSU went on a 14-2 run.
Jamaure Gregg scored the first seven points of that Demon run, and he finished the half with seven points and eight rebounds.
Gregg recorded a career-high 11 rebounds and just missed his first career double-double with nine points.
Nikos Chougkaz contributed eight points and nine rebounds.