Nicholls State scored the first eight points of overtime and never looked back, as they escaped with a 89-79 victory over the UNO men’s basketball team at the Lakefront Arena on Monday night.
T.J. Carpenter paced the Colonels (8-18, 5-11 in the Southland) with a career-high 28 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field with three assists and five 3-pointers. Liam Thomas added a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“That’s the guy we’ve been waiting on all year,” Nicholls coach J.P. Piper said of Carpenter. “He came out tonight with a laser focus, and he was lights out. He really gave us a lift, and the rest of the guys picked up his slack down the stretch.”
Nicholls guard Ja’Dante Frye gave the Colonels a 69-65 lead on a layup with 1:58 left in the game, but UNO answered with a midrange jumper by Nate Frye and a tip-in by Kevin Hill that tied the game up with 26 seconds left.
Nicholls forward Sam McBeath had an opportunity to win the game with a 12-foot baseline jumper, but it came up short and sent the game to overtime.
Christavious Gill paced UNO with his career-high 25 points, which included a 6-of-11 performance on 3-pointers. Terrance Syon also had his best game since coming to the Lakefront, nabbing a career high in rebounds (16) and tying his career scoring-high (15).
“We did not defend in the second half the way we should have,” UNO coach Mark Slessinger said. “When you allow teams to shoot 62 percent from the field in the second half, it’s going to be hard to win. I’m pretty frustrated that we couldn’t finish the second half defensively the way we should have.”
Just as they did in their Feb. 2 defeat of UNO, the lengthy Nicholls defense clogged up passing lanes for UNO and made it difficult for the Privateers to move the ball in their offensive sets.
During UNO’s six games in February (excluding their game again Nicholls), they averaged nearly 10 assists per game. But in their two matchups against the Colonels, the Privateers could manage only a combined eight assists.
UNO combatted their inability to move the ball by relentlessly attacking the rim and getting to the foul line. The Privateers shot 33 free throws and made 28.
“I think they are in the passing lanes a little more than the teams we’re used to playing,” Gill said. “They were forcing us to catch the ball out high, and it’s harder when we can’t really get the ball in the paint the way we usually do.”
The Colonels used their swarming defense and long-range shooting to gain an early lead on the Privateers, Nicholls held UNO to two made baskets in the first nine minutes of the game and drained four of their first five 3-point attempts to jump out to an early 17-6 lead.
The Privateers’ offensive struggles continued, making only five of their first 27 shots and turning the ball over eight times. But a late offensive surge, which included back-to-back layups by Syon and Kevin Brown and a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Christavious Gill, got the Privateers right back in the game.
They trailed 28-26 at halftime.
UNO plays its final home game of the season in the Lakefront Arena at 7:45 p.m. Thursday against Southeastern Louisiana.