THIBODAUX, La. — An 8-0 run to start the second half gave the Nicholls State Colonels the cushion they needed to record an 80-70 victory over the University of Central Arkansas Bears on Wednesday night in Southland Conference play at Stopher Gymnasium.
The Colonels (9-17, 5-8) remained in the hunt for a SLC postseason tournament berth with the victory, while the Bears (7-19, 2-12) made their path to the postseason even more perilous. UCA, which beat Nicholls by 23 points in the first meeting in Conway, has three games remaining, including the next two at home at the Farris Center, to try to earn a spot.
The Bears only had six turnovers in the second half, but the majority of those came in the opening five minutes that allowed the Colonels to stretch their two-point lead to double figures at 54-44 with nine minutes remaining. UCA junior Jarvis Garner kept the Bears within striking distance, scoring a career-high 28 points, with 18 of those coming in the second half.
"We started off the second half and we were just flat,’ said UCA head coach Corliss Williamson. "We couldn’t get anything going offensively and they were just able to come down and run their offense and attack us off the dribble.
"And we’ve talked about it before, you can’t turn the basketball over on the road. You just can’t do it. And a lot of those were just poor decisions on our part. You have to give Nicholls credit, they wanted this game. You could tell because they fought for every loose ball.’
The Bears got a first-half spark off the bench from senior Joe Harris from Lake Charles, La., who nailed a pair of three-pointers and had eight points at halftime. The Bears out-shot and out-rebounded the Colonels in the half but trailed 30-28 at the break.
A jumper by Garner with 6:40 left gave the Bears their first lead of the game at 20-19. The teams traded leads the rest of the way, with neither leading by more than two points. Harris’ second three-pointer gave UCA a 28-26 lead with 4:15 remaining, but the Colonels scored the final four points of the half to take a two-point lead at the break. Garner led UCA with 10 points in the first half, despite only playing nine minutes because of foul trouble.
Harris was 3 of 5 from three-point range for the game for a career-high 17 points as the Bears tied their season-high with 11 three-pointers. UCA was 11 of 21 from beyond the arc (52.4 percent). Garner was 4 of 6, Carlin Bremner was 2 of 6 and Lenell Brown and Mark Rutledge both made their only attempts of the game.
"Joe Harris really came in and played well for us,’ said Williamson. "He knocked down some big shots tonight. He was aggressive and physical out there for us defensively. And Jarvis really stepped up for us and was scoring the basketball well. I hate that he got two fouls in the first half. I would have loved to play him more, and who knows how the game would have gone then.
"Those two guys really brought it tonight. They really gave us what we were looking for. We just need a few more guys to get on board if we’re going to finish the season out strong.’
The Colonels shot 59.4 percent from the field in the second half and an even 50 percent for the game. Nicholls outrebounded UCA 25-11 in the second half and finished the game with a 40-28 margin.
Dantrell Thomas led the Colonels with 22 points, while Lewis added 17 and Jeremy Smith
The Bears return home for consecutive games beginning Saturday with a 4 p.m. matchup with Southeastern Louisiana at the Farris Center.