THIBODAUX, Louisiana — The Nicholls Colonels made 7 of 8 at the free-throw line in the final 1:45 to complete a second-half comeback and hand the University of Central Arkansas Bears their second consecutive frustrating loss, winning 79-72 on Saturday afternoon at Stopher Gym.
The Bears (5-14, 4-4 SLC) were coming off a one-point loss on Wednesday when league-leader Stephen F. Austin made a free throw with two seconds left to win at the Farris Center.
The Bears led by 13 points at halftime on Saturday against the second-place Colonels after coming out on fire from the perimeter, but were outscored 49-29 in the decisive second half.
UCA shot 53.6% from the field in the first half, but Nicholls shot the same percentage in the second half and made 6 of 11 3-point attempts and 9 of 11 at the free-throw line after halftime.
"We just kind of slowed down in the second half,” UCA interim head coach Anthony Boone said. "We had a huge letdown. The effort was good in the first half, the second half our urgency just wasn't there. We have to do better in the second half.
"Of course, Nicholls is a good team. They are a good team and they are capable of exploding. We knew that, we watched a lot of film and knew that. But we just didn't have the same urgency the second half.”
After the Bears pushed their lead to as much as 17 points to open the second half on back-to-back Hayden Koval baskets, the Colonels slowly took control and gained the lead on a 3-pointer by D'Angelo Hunter with 7:10 to play.
UCA never led again, but did cut the deficit to just one point on consecutive 3-pointers from junior guards DeAndre Jones and Rylan Bergersen, the latter with 3:48 remaining.
But the Colonels, who have made second-half comebacks a habit this season, went on a 12-6 run to close out the game.
"(In the first half), we were trying to attack inside and then kick out to guys that were wide open,” Boone said. "Just like our drills in practice, catch and shoot. That's why we shot the ball well in the first half. We just didn't do that as well in the second half.”
The Bears grabbed a 43-30 halftime lead after connecting on 8 of 12 from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes.
UCA made six of those threes in the final 8:45 after falling behind by four at the 10-minute mark.
Jones made three and Bergersen and redshirt freshman Jaxson Baker made one each as UCA ran out to a 33-26 advantage with 5:30 remaining.
An alley-oop dunk by SK Shittu, off a pass from Jones, gave the Bears a 38-28 lead.
Baker made another three and Jones put in an up-and-under bank shot at the buzzer to give the Bears their 13-point halftime margin.
UCA outscored Nicholls 26-9 in the final 10 minutes of the half.
Jones, who missed the SFA game with an ankle injury, continued his red-hot ways in conference play, scoring a game-high 26 points and hitting 6 of 7 from 3-point range.
UCA finished 11 of 21 from beyond the arc, but made only 3 of 9 in the second half.
Jones also had seven rebounds and seven assists with just one turnover in 35 minutes. Bergersen added 12 points and Baker and Koval had 11 each, with Koval adding four blocked shots.
Elvis Harvey topped the Colonels (12-7, 6-2 SLC) with 24 points and Andre Jones added 20.
UCA has an open date on Wednesday before hosting yet another SLC contender in Abilene Christian at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Farris Center in a doubleheader with the Sugar Bears.