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Southland Second Round: Northwestern St and Sam Houston St advance

For a second straight day, the seeds held in Southland Conference Tournament play. That leaves the four best teams in the league still standing as we head into the semifinal round in Katy, Texas.

DeQuan Hicks' double-double lifted NWST to a semifinal showdown vs SFA
DeQuan Hicks' double-double lifted NWST to a semifinal showdown vs SFA

#4 Northwestern St 88, #5 Nicholls 72

DeQuan Hicks scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the number four seed Northwestern St. Demons to an 88-72 win over the number five seed Nicholls Colonels in second round action at the Southland Conference Tournament in Katy, Texas.

The Demons used a dominant first half performance to separate from the Colonels immediately. A pair of Jalan West three pointers sparked a 10-2 run to open the game. A Hicks tip-in gave the Demons their first 15 point lead with 8:15 left, and a fast break dunk by Brison White four minutes later put them up 38-18. After leading 43-28 at the break, Northwestern State led by 10 or more points for all but 93 seconds of the second half to cruise to victory.

The loss ends a quality season for Nicholls and ends the college careers of senior stars Dantrell Thomas and Jeremy Smith. Thomas scored just 12 points with five rebounds as he battled foul trouble before eventually fouling out down the stretch. Smith had one of his better games as a Colonel, scoring 24 points with eight rebounds. "You try to teach young guys to always leave things better than they found it, and they've done that" said Nicholls Coach J.P. Piper of his seniors. "They've improved the health of our program academically, character-wise, athletically."

Along with Hicks' 10th double-double of the season, the Demons got another great performance from an unlikely source. Marvin Frazier, a junior who averaged 4.7 points per game this season, scored 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting. He grabbed seven rebounds, blocked three shots, and had three assists.

With the win, Northwestern State advances to the semifinals of the Southland Conference Tournament where they will once again face-off against the top-seeded and undefeated Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks. In last year's SLC Championship, the Demons knocked off the top-seeded Lumberjacks 68-66 to advance to the NCAA Tournament. In their two meetings this year, SFA won by scores of 74-58 and 70-68 on a last second steal and dunk by SFA's Jacob Parker.

#3 Sam Houston St 70, #6 Oral Roberts 61

Kaheem Ransom and Jabari Peters combined to score 36 points to lead the number three seed Sam Houston St. Bearkats to a 70-61 win over the number six seed Oral Roberts Golden Eagles, finalizing the Final Four of the Southland Conference Tournament. The Bearkats will face number two seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders in the semifinals.

The first half of the game was a back and forth affair until the Bearkats closed the half on a 7-0 run over the final two minutes that turned out to be a crucial stretch in the game. Michael Holyfield made a layup. That was followed by a Peters steal which led to a James Thomas layup. After an ORU miss, Peters nailed a three pointer in the closing seconds to cap the run. "I think Jabari's shot at the end of the half got us going as a team, and also got him going too" said SHSU Coach Jason Hooten.

Nailing three pointers was the story of the game offensively for Sam Houston State. Peters, Ransom, and Paul Baxter took all of SHSU's three-point tries in the game, making 9-of-13. The Bearkats as a team shot 62% from the field in the first half, 54% for the game. "I didn’t envision a team coming in here the first night being able to shoot as well as they did" said ORU Coach Scott Sutton.

The loss ends Oral Roberts' brief stay in the Southland Conference. After just two seasons, ORU will return to the Summit League next year.