THIBODAUX – Jahvaughn Powell’s 3-pointer with 33.2 seconds to play gave his Nicholls Colonels a 5-point lead while taking the air out of a remarkable second half comeback by McNeese as the Colonels held off the Cowboys 78-74 in Southland Conference action Saturday night.
McNeese (6-14, 3-6 SLC) trailed 51-33 with 16:23 to play in the game before rallying to tie the game with 1:30 remaining.
“I’m proud of the way we battled back but we never should’ve been in that situation in the first place,” said head coach Dave Simmons.
Simmons was right on.
McNeese turned the ball over 16 times in the game resulting in 20 Nicholls points. Eleven of those turnovers occurred in the first half that led to 15 Nicholls points and eventually a 42-31 halftime lead.
The Cowboys fell behind by 18 points in the first 3-and-a-half minutes of the second half as the Colonels scored five more points off two turnovers and it appeared things were going to continue to spiral out of control for McNeese.
But the Cowboys regrouped, refocused and began to knock down shots while taking care of the ball and playing good defense.
James Harvey, who scored 12 points in the game, nine in the second half, started and ended a run of 13-0 with a couple of baskets, the latter being a three-pointer to cut the gap to 52-46 with 12:10 to play.
Powell put the Colonels back up by 9 following a 3 with 8:37 remaining but Stephen Ugochukwu (16 points, 6 rebounds) stunned everyone by hitting two 3-point baskets to within three points two minutes later.
A 3 by Jarren Greenwood (10 points) cut the margin to 65-64 with 3:58 left to play then Jamaya Burr, who led all players with 24 points, made a layup against Nicholls’ 7-foot tall Liam Thomas, to tie the game at 69-69 with 1:30 to play.
Powell, who scored 16 points, responded right away by getting past the Cowboys’ defense for an easy layup to put Nicholls up 71-69 just 13 seconds later, then after a Ugochukwu layup was blocked by Thomas, the nation’s leading shot blocker, Powell knocked down a 3-pointer from the baseline to put Nicholls up 74-69 with 33.2 seconds to play.
Not out of it, Burr hit two free throws after being fouled on a layup attempt to cut the margin to 74-71 with 25 seconds left but Johnathan Bell, who led Nicholls with 19 points, and Powell each hit two free throws in the final 15 seconds to keep the Cowboys from having any chances to tie or win.
McNeese had one of its better nights shooting on the season, hitting 51 percent behind 26 of 51 aim including 9 of 22 for 41 percent from 3-point range.
Nicholls connected on 42 percent (25 of 59) from the field and 9 of 24 for 41 percent from long range.
Both teams pulled down 32 rebounds.
McNeese will return to action on Thursday when it visits Incarnate Word.