Nicholls falls just short at No. 17 Mississippi State, 68-66

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Latrell Jones

STARKVILLE, Miss. – After surrendering a halftime lead, the Nicholls State University men’s basketball rallied from nine points down in the final five minutes at No. 17 Mississippi State, but a Colonel 3-pointer in the final seconds was off the mark as the Bulldogs escaped with a 68-66 victory Saturday afternoon at Humphrey Coliseum.

Nicholls (5-6) made it a one-point game for the third time in the final minute when Latrell Jones sank two free throws with 2.8 seconds. After Mississippi State (11-0) called a timeout, Marek Nelson stole the inbounds and found Pierce Spencer on the wing for a 3-pointer. But the potential game-winner hit off the rim as the buzzer sounded, keeping MSU undefeated on the season.

The loss prevented the Colonels from clinching their first win in school history against a Top 25 program and it also would have been the first victory against an SEC school since beating LSU in 2010. Nicholls will likely have one more crack at a Top 25 team this season with No. 11 Baylor on the schedule for Dec. 28.

Three Colonels finished in double figures, led by Jones with 15 points and eight rebounds. Nelson and Caleb Huffman added 12 points each.

For the second time in 10 days, Nicholls had the lead at the half against a Power 5 team as they led 30-27 over the Bulldogs. Huffman was nearly unstoppable in the first half as he scored all 12 of his points which included a pair of 3-pointers.

Mississippi State took command early in the second half, outscoring Nicholls 20-7 in the first six minutes to flip the three-point deficit into a 10-point lead at 47-37. The Bulldogs led by as much as 12 before the Colonels climbed back.

Nicholls used a pair of three-point plays to make the score 52-47 midway through the half. Nelson had a bucket-and-one before Spencer drained a 3-pointer. Both teams struggled from 3-point range as Nicholls shot 6 of 25 and Mississippi State made two of 14.

The Colonels eventually made it a one-possession game with less than four minutes remaining but could never tie or take the lead.

Nicholls outshot MSU from the field, 42 to 39 percent, but the Bulldogs had a significant advantage at the free throw line. The Colonels made 6 of 9 while Mississippi State connected on 28 of 35.

Tolu Smith led the Bulldogs with 15 points and Dashawn Davis and Tyler Stevenson each added 14.

Nicholls will play its final home game of 2022, hosting Trinity Baptist College on Monday, Dec. 19. TIpoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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