Nicholls drops road test at SMU in first NIT appearance

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Devante Carter
(Photo: Erik Williams/Southland Communications)

DALLAS – Facing top-seeded SMU, the Nicholls State University men’s basketball team came within two points with three minutes remaining, but the Mustangs were able to avoid the upset as the Colonels fell, 68-58, in the opening round of the NIT at Moody Coliseum.

Nicholls (21-12) was making its first ever appearance in the NIT, third overall in the postseason and first since 1998. With the win, SMU (24-8) advanced to host Washington State on Sunday.

The Colonels had two players score in double figures — Devante Carter with 20 points and Latrell Jones with 18. Carter dished out a game-high seven assists while Jones chipped in with four steals.. Jones’ 3-pointer with three minutes remaining made the score 58-56 before the Mustangs came up with the next seven points to put the game away.

Both teams finished under 40 percent shooting for the game and neither squad found its touch from long range. Nicholls made just 7 of 30 while SMU connected on only 4 of 23. The biggest difference on the offensive end came at the free throw line where the Mustangs made 18 of 21 and Nicholls hit 3 of 9.

Nicholls scored the first four points of the game; however, SMU answered with a 9-0 run. The Colonels struggled on offense early, falling behind 19-9.

Ryghe Lyons and Jones ignited the offense later in the half, each hitting 3-pointer to help Nicholls pull within four. But despite the 3-balls, the Colonels faced a 35-26 deficit at the half.

Nicholls shot better in the second half at 40 percent but never tied or led the rest of the game. Carter had a pull-up jumper cut it to three at the 13-minute mark, then Ty Gordon sank a triple with eight minutes remaining to slice the deficit in half. It was the first of two 3-pointers for Gordon in a four-minute stretch, but the Southland Player of the Year had an off night as he shot 2 of 15 from the game and 2 of 11 from 3.

SMU answered with a couple of free throws by Michael Weathers. He and his brother, Marcus, each had double-doubles for SMU as they combined for 32 points and 23 rebounds.

With Nicholls trailing by five, Jones nailed his third 3-pointer of the night to make it a one-possession game. But for the final time, SMU countered again with the game’s next seven points. After two free throws, SMU scored again on a Marcus Weathers bucket and Emmanuel Bandoumel closed out the run with a basket-and-one.

Manny Littles led Nicholls with 10 rebounds and added seven points. Lyons totaled four blocks to up his season total to 65.

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