Nicholls buzzer beater thwarts SLU comeback bid

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HAMMOND, La. – Nicholls’ Airi Hamilton sank the game-winner at the buzzer to give the Colonels a 65-63 victory over Southeastern Louisiana in Southland Conference women’s basketball action Saturday afternoon in the University Center.

SLU (5-10, 2-4 Southland) came from 13 points down to go down to the wire in a fourth quarter that featured three lead changes and four ties. Lady Lion freshman Alexius Horne hit a tough shot to tie the game at 65-65 with 18 seconds left.

Nicholls’ Chrystal Ezechukwu nearly lost the ball on the Colonels’ final possession, but controlled the ball and got off a shot from the paint. Her shot rimmed out, but Hamilton was there for the rebound and banked in a shot just before regulation expired. Hamilton’s game-winner snapped a five-game losing streak for Nicholls (4-11, 1-5 Southland).

Celica Sterling led SLU with 18 points and was joined in double figures by teammates Jyar Francis and Morgan Carrier with 15 points each. Francis and Sterling led the Lady Lions with six rebounds apiece.

Sterling and Horne each had four assists apiece. Charliee Dugas paced the Lady Lion defensive effort with three steals.

Ezechukwu led Nicholls with 23 points, while being joined in double figures by Loan-Anh Johnson (21) and Tykeria Williams (14). Ezechukwu narrowly missed a double-double with a game-high nine rebounds. Williams and Johnson led the Colonels with three assists each. Williams was also credited with five steals.

First Quarter
Carrier had the hot hand early for Southeastern, hitting three three-point field goals to stake SLU to a 13-9 lead with 4:34 left in the opening quarter. However, Nicholls changed the momentum in the latter part of the period.

The Colonels closed out the quarter with an 11-0 run. A Williams steal and layup sent Nicholls into the second quarter with a 20-13 cushion.

Second Quarter
Southeastern’s offensive slump to end the first quarter extended into the second quarter. Nicholls grew the lead to 13 on a pair of Ezechukwu free throws that gave the Colonels a 31-18 lead with 2:45 left in the half.

SLU cut into the lead going into halftime. Buckets by Sterling, Caitlyn Williams and Daija Harvey pulled Southeastern within 33-25 heading into the break.

Third Quarter
Nicholls once again grew the lead to 13 early in the third quarter. A Johnson jumper put the Colonels up, 40-27, with 6:42 remaining in the period.

From that point, Southeastern ratcheted up the defensive effort for the remainder of the period. The Lady Lions cut the advantage to as few as two and Nicholls saw its lead whittled down to 49-44 heading into the final quarter.

Fourth Quarter
Nicholls extended its lead with the first three points of the final period. However, SLU retook the lead with an 11-0 run. A pair of threes by Sterling, a Francis trey and a couple of Carrier free throws gave Southeastern a 55-52 lead with 6:30 left.

The lead would flip flop the rest of the game. Nicholls took a two-possession advantage with a Williams layup that gave the Colonels a 63-59 edge with just over two minutes left.

Dugas cut the lead in half with a layup, the Johnson missed both free throws after a Lady Lion foul. Francis came down and tied the game with a tough shot in the lane.

Nicholls retook the lead after Johnson scored on a strong take with 31.1 seconds left. Horne tied it up with a shot from the right side just outside of the lane, setting up Hamilton’s heroics on the final trip. Her bucket represented her lone points of the contest.

Up Next
Southeastern plays its next three games away from home, starting with a 4:30 p.m. contest at Abilene Christian on Saturday, Jan. 18. The game will be televised on ESPN+. The contest will also be heard in the Hammond area on KSLU-FM (90.9), online at www.LionSports.net/listenlive and via the TuneIn Radio and Lions Gameday Experience apps.

Nicholls 67 (4-11, 1-5 SLC)
Ezechukwu 9-19 5-7 23, Wiliams 6-12 1-1 14, McKay 2-6 1-3 5, Hamilton 1-2 0-0 2, Johnson 10-12 1-5 21, Fountain 0-0 0-0 0, Cain 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 29-54 8-16 67.
Southeastern Louisiana 65 (5-10, 2-4 SLC)
Carrier 4-8 4-4 15, Francis 6-12 2-2 15, Williams 2-6 2-2 6, Sterling 7-14 1-2 18, Horne 2-6 1-2 5, Jubril 0-0 0-0 0, Giaratano 0-2 0-0 0, Dugas 2-3 0-0 4, Harvey 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 24-54 10-12 65.
End of 1st Quarter – NICH 20, SLU 13. Halftime – NICH 33, SLU 25. End of 3rd Quarter – NICH 49, SLU 44. 3-point goals – NICH 1-8 (Williams 1-5, McKay 0-2, Ezechukwu 0-1), SLU 7-22 (Sterling 3-9, Carrier 3-6, Francis 1-3, Horne 0-2, Harvey 0-1). Technical Fouls – Carrier. Fouled Out – Williams, SLU. Rebounds – NICH 35 (Ezechukwu 9), SLU 26 (Francis, Sterling 6). Assists – NICH 10 (Williams, Johnson 3), SLU 13 (Sterling, Horne 4). Total Fouls – NICH 16, SLU 23. A – 549.

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