Northwestern State Assistant Athletic Director/Media Relations
NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State fought back from a 10-point deficit to grab a lead midway through the second half, but Nicholls finished stronger and recorded a 78-72 win Wednesday night in the Southland Conference basketball opener for both teams at Prather Coliseum.
The Colonels (8-6) hit four straight shots to overtake the Demons (5-9) and never trailed in the final 5:13 on the strength of a decisive 11-2 run. Northwestern closed within 71-69 with 1:22 remaining on Malik Metoyer’s driving dunk, but the visitors scored seven unanswered to prevail.
The Demons missed four shots, three of them behind the 3-point arc, and had a turnover in a minute-long stretch as the Colonels secured the win.
“We’re not yet in the position of being confident and comfortable about what we need to do down the stretch,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy, whose team lost for the first time in four games.
Nicholls, winning its third straight, got a game-high 24 points from Gavin Peppers, who bombed in 5 of 9 on 3-pointers. He scored 19 by halftime as the Colonels led 43-38 after being up 39-29 on one of his treys.
Brandon Moore had a double-double for the visitors with 16 points and a game-best 13 rebounds. Jeremiah Johnson scored 11.
“Brandon Moore did an unbelievable job for Nicholls, just wore us out. He kept them in the game when we had a chance to stretch it out,” said McConathy. “They did a really nice job of taking advantage of what they had and they made baskets down the stretch with the game on the line.
“We didn’t rebound like we needed to down the stretch. We did some good things. Our pressure defense created some problems. Vonte Ott, Brandon Hutton, Malik Metoyer, Brian White and whoever we had in the post with them created havoc, but we didn’t get enough points out of that,” said McConathy.
Ishmael Lane led the Demons with 14 points and nine rebounds. Jacob Guest nailed four 3-pointers for a career-high 12 points while freshman point guard Brian White, playing in only his third collegiate game, scored 10 and had three assists with no turnovers in 28 minutes.
NSU sank 15 of 18 first-half free throws to offset 29 percent overall shooting, but got to the free throw line only five times afterward. Nicholls, after just six first-half free throw tries, sank 13 of 16 in the final 20 minutes to hold off the Demons.
Each team had 41 rebounds and 11 turnovers. Nicholls shot 43 percent overall to 38 percent for NSU.
“Our intensity level was a lot, lot better than it has been recently,” said McConathy. “We’re knocking on the door, but didn’t take advantage. Maybe we were pressing too hard, wanting to win so badly, and it didn’t pan out. We’ll hopefully learn from this and be better here on Saturday.”
The Demons play at home Saturday at 3 against McNeese, which opened league play with a victory at Incarnate Word to go to 5-9 overall. The women’s teams will begin Saturday’s doubleheader with a 1 p.m. contest at Prather Coliseum.