No. 4 Nicholls Stuns No. 1 Lamar to Advance to First Ever Title Game

first_imgConference Player of the Year Cassidy Barrios was the engine for Nicholls in the opening half, going 5-for-9 from the field and 2-for-2 from the line for 14 points. While plagued by early missed shots in the paint and 12 turnovers, Nicholls held its own on the boards with a 21-17 overall rebounding advantage. Another run by the Colonels capped by another Barrios three with 1:59 to go in the third gave the Colonels the largest lead for either team at 57-44. Kinard would pull the Cardinals closer with a three-pointer of her own to end the quarter but LU would still enter the final period of play down by 10. To start the second half, nine straight points from the Colonels gave them their first lead since early in the first quarter at 39-38. The run was pushed to 18-0 and a 47-38 Nicholls lead before Kiandra Bowers finally put up a layup and one for LU. Barrios answered with a trey with 5:00 on the clock to push the lead back to 50-41 Cardinals before the media timeout. LU’s offense started to click as the first quarter wound down. Both Kinard and senior Baileigh O’Dell knocked down a pair of threes and were 3-4 from the field to lead the floor with eight points each. The Colonels were unable to sustain their opening run and went the final 5:40 of the quarter without a field goal, entering the first intermission down 21-11. Behind strong rebounding and a pair of threes, Nicholls jumped out to an early 6-2 lead before Lamar began to find its stride. The Cardinals knotted the game at 8-8 behind five points from junior Moe Kinard at the first media timeout. The Cardinals were led by all-conference first team guard Kinard with 13 points while O’Dell also notched double figures with 10 points. Nicholls will face the winner of today’s second semifinal between No. 2 Stephen F. Austin and No. 3 Central Arkansas tomorrow at noon on CBS Sports Network for the tournament championship and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Led by a masterful scoring performance from conference Player of the Year Cassidy Barrios (27 points), the fourth-seed Colonels took LU out of its element and became just the fourth Southland team to hold Lamar under 70 points this season. Kinard led LU with 21 points while O’Dell added 18. Bowers racked up 14 points and 18 rebounds for her 12th double double of the season. “We knew it had to be all about us,” Plaisance said. “It’s the high character, it’s the grit and tremendous leadership we have. I always tell my team that the opponents can’t scout what’s in your head and your heart.” On the return possession, Barrios came up with a massive block on O’Dell’s three-point attempt, which teammate Marina Lilly gathered to force a foul from Lamar. After a missed three-pointer from Freshman of the Year Jadyn Pimentel, Tykeria Williams was fouled on her way to the basket on the other end and canned both free throws, making it a four-point game (72-68) with 19.8 on the clock. “Everything was set up for us to succeed,” Harmony said. “We just unraveled, lost our composure and couldn’t make it happen down the stretch.”center_img Senior Tia Charles and sophomore Tykeria Williams each registered 17 points to lead a well-rounded Colonel attack which averaged just 65.3 points per game in the regular season. Lamar would open up a scoring spurt to close the first half but the Colonels remained in striking distance, finishing the second quarter with the score 38-30 in favor of LU. The Cardinals flirted with single-digit deficits as the final quarter wore on and pulled within six on a jumper from Kinard with 3:21 to go. With 1:46 on the clock, O’Dell drained her third three-pointer of the night to bring the top seed within three points at 68-65. With a minute to play, O’Dell came through with another trey to knot the game at 68 and end another 8-0 Colonels run. Barrios wasted no time on the other end, putting up an off-balance layup to push Nicholls back ahead 70-68. “We knew the third quarter had to be our best quarter,” said Charles. “Our third quarters had been our worst quarters all season, so we had to make a change.” The Cardinals, who were outright Southland Conference regular season champions for the first time in program history, made their 13th straight appearance in the conference tournament, but have not won the title since 2010. Colonels’ senior Tia Charles was fouled on the Nicholls-end inbound play and made 1-of-2 from the line to make the score 73-68 with 8.3 on the clock. Williams was then put back on the line, also going 1-for-2 to make it 74-68 for good. Kinard’s final three-point shot fell short and the Colonels punched their ticket to the championship game for the first time in program history. The fourth-seeded Colonels started a run of their own in the second period, sparking an 8-0 clip before Southland Coach of the Year Robin Harmony called a timeout with her side leading just 25-22 with 6:11 to play. “Don’t panic,” was Plaisance’s mantra. “We’ve been in every possible situation this year,” said Plaisance. “Never having the lead, never losing the lead, everything. We’ve seen it all, so there was no pressure.” They did just that, as the Colonels held Lamar to just nine points in the third period while putting up 27. Box Score | Photo GalleryKATY, Texas – “We are all that we need,” Nicholls head coach DoBee Plaisance said to her team in an early timeout with No. 4 Nicholls trailing No. 1 Lamar in today’s Southland Women’s Basketball Tournament semifinal. She couldn’t have been more right, as the Colonels survived everything the Southland champions threw at them to earn a 74-68 victory and a spot in their first ever Southland Tournament title game. We’re just taking it one game at a time,” Barrios said. “We’ve already made history and we’re ready to make more history tomorrow.”last_img read more