Dominant first half fuels Nicholls in SLC opener over SLU

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THIBODAUX, La. – The Nicholls State University men’s basketball team led by as much as 22 points in the first half against rival Southeastern as the Colonels cruised to an 88-73 victory Thursday night in the Southland Conference opener on Broussard Court at Stopher Gymnasium.

Nicholls (5-5, 1-0 SLC) had four players score in double figures for the game with Latrell Jones and Caleb Huffman each netting double digits in the first half, leading the Colonels to a 45-26 advantage at the break. Southeastern (5-6, 0-1 SLC) was able to whittle down a 26-point deficit in the second half to 14 but never came any closer as the Colonels snapped a three-game skid in the series.

Jones and Huffman each finished with 17 points while Manny Littles scored a season-high 15 points and Micah Thomas contributed with 11 points and five assists. Nicholls also welcomed back guard Pierce Spencer (5 points, 3 assists) who missed the last three weeks with an injury.

Nicholls shot 50.9 percent in the victory and drained 12 3-pointers at a season-high 52.2 percent. The Colonel defense held SLU without a 3-pointer in the first half before the Lions ended up 5-21 for the game. In last season’s SLU victory in Thibodaux, the visitors made 17 of 26 from behind the arc.

But the Colonels flipped the script and hit six from long range in each half. Two came at the tail end of the first period as Nicholls quickly turned a 31-22 lead into 22-point advantage with a 13-0 run. Huffman canned the first 3-ball before Jones followed with one for a 44-22 lead with a minute until the intermission.

Shots continued to drop for the Red and Gray in the second half as Littles hit his first 3-pointer of the season. Littles then scored on a putback later in the half to match the Colonels’ largest lead of the night at 69-43 with 11 minutes remaining.

Southeastern, which rallied from a 21-point deficit to knock off the Colonels in Hammond last season, came within 15 after a Christian Agnew 3-pointer and a dunk by Boogie Anderson. But Huffman answered with a 3-pointer and then delivered one in the final minute to end any chance of a miraculous comeback.

Although Nicholls lost the turnover battle, 16-14, the Colonels had the advantage on the boards at 37-30. Mekhi Collins led the way with seven rebounds while Jones and Littles added six. Littles also had a strong night shooting, making 7 of 8 from the field.

Agnew led all scorers with 22 points and Anderson chipped in with 17.

Nicholls steps back out of league play with a quick turnaround on Saturday, heading to Starkville to take on No. 17 Mississippi State (10-0). Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. on the SEC Network. Southeastern looks to rebound at home on Saturday back outside of conference as Troy (7-4) comes to Hammond. Tip off is set for 1:00 p.m. at the University Center on ESPN+.

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