No. 3 Stephen F. Austin Fights Off No. 2 Nicholls Comeback, Wins 78-66

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first_imgBox Score | Photo GalleryKATY, Texas – Nicholls and its high-octane offense struggled early and was unable to recover from a combination of poor shooting and a locked-in Stephen F. Austin defense that dashed the Colonels’ dreams of reaching the NCAA Tournament.Shannon Bogues came off the bench to deliver 27 points as the No. 3 Lumberjacks advanced to Saturday’s tournament championship game with a 78-66 win over No. 4 Nicholls at the Merrell Center on Friday night. SFA (25-6) will play top-seeded Southeastern Louisiana (22-10) at 8:8 p.m. CT on Saturday for the right to receive an automatic invite to the NCAA Tournament.“Once you get into the zone, it’s hard to get out of it,” said Bogues, who crossed the 500-point barrier this season.“You can’t coach some of the things Shannon does,” added SFA coach Kyle Keller.Bogues added a pair of dunks to highlight a night that also saw him add two rebounds and an assist in a contest where the Lumberjacks managed only three treys in 15 attempts and shot 36 percent from the field in the first half.SFA lost its only regular season meeting against Southeastern Louisiana in a 73-62 setback in the conference opener on December 28. A win by the Lumberjacks tomorrow would put them in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time since 2009.The Lumberjacks held the Colonels (21-10) to 28.8 percent shooting on the evening, holding them to 7-for-22 (31.8 percent) from beyond the arc despite Nicholls’ Lafayette Rutledge’s Southland Tournament record 18 attempts.“They’ve got a heck of a team,” said Nicholls’ Richie Riley, the conference Coach of the Year. “They’ve got a heck of a way to make you not play well.”Nicholls was unable to establish an offensive groove as the loss of talented guard Tevon Saddler came back to haunt the Colonels. Saddler, who was ninth in the conference in scoring (15.2 points per game) and 12th in rebounding (6.5 boards per game), dislocated his knee in the second-to-last game of the regular season.“They defended us better than most teams do,” said Rutledge, who finished with 24 points. “They caused us to take some tough shots and they didn’t fall.Nicholls, which trailed 37-27 at the half, shot only 19.4 percent in the opening 20 minutes and spent much of the early portion after intermission flirting with the Southland Tournament record for lowest field goal percentage. Thing looked dim for the Colonels when Bogues’ dunk appeared to give the Lumberjacks a seemingly safe 51-36 lead with 13:52 remaining.Finally, the Colonels began to find the touch that had them averaging 83 points per game during the regular season as a Kevin Johnson jumper proceeded a three-pointer from Rutledge that trimmed the Nicholls deficit to 55-45 with 9:32 to go. Undaunted, the Lumberjacks replied with a run of their own to extend their lead to 59-45 yet a 10-0 run from Nicholls – capped by a triple from Johnson – cut the gap to 59-54 with 6:41 remaining.The Colonels’ run was snapped by a final SFA run that was keyed by a dunk from T.J. Holyfield, giving the Lumberjacks a comfortable 69-56 lead with 3:02 left on the clock.“There’s a reason why Nicholls won the league in the regular season,” said Keller. “They have great will and fought from beginning to end. We knew that.”last_img

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