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Men’s basketball looks to extend win streak on Senior Night

February 24, 2018

Even with a spot in the Southland Conference tournament already clinched, the Nicholls State University men’s basketball team knows it cannot lose focus on the rest of the regular season and look ahead to tournament play. Riding a season-best six-game winning streak, the Colonels (19-9, 13-2 SLC) will host the University of New Orleans, who trails Nicholls in conference standings by two-and-a-half games, tonight, Sat., Feb. 24th. The senior Colonels will also be honored during the game, as it is Senior Night for the team.

TOURNAMENT TALK

With the team missing out on the Southland Conference tournament last year, it was especially satisfying for Nicholls coaches and players when they clinched a postseason birth this year. A win over Central Arkansas University on Feb. 17th secured a guaranteed trip to the tournament in Katy, TX.

It actually means a lot since we didn’t get to go last year, we fell a little short. The main goal this year was to get to the Southland Conference tournament then to get to the NCAA tournament,” said senior guard Jahvaughn Powell on clinching a spot. “This is only the first stepping stone, but it feels good to be able to clinch a spot early and know that we have one solidified.”

Head coach Richie Riley explained that the team needs to take one game at a time and not get caught looking ahead as they continue to fight to keep hold of the number one seed.

In the midst of one the most memorable seasons in recent memory for Nicholls basketball, senior guard Lafayette Rutledge has big aspirations for the rest of the season and for the tournament.

We want to win it all. We haven’t come this far and worked this hard for nothing. This team has been through a lot,” said Rutledge. “We’ve lost people so it’s been a tough road, but everything’s been for the better and we want to win it all.”

SHOOTERS SHOOT

While the victory over McNeese State University was impressive by the team as a whole, it was especially impressive for one Colonel. Senior guard Lafayette Rutledge had a memorable performance, as he knocked down 11 of 19 three-point shots en route to breaking the Nicholls men’s basketball team record for three-pointers in a game and the record for threes in a season. His 34 points was both a career-high and a team-high for the game.

Coach Riley signed me and he told me one thing he specifically wanted me to do is shoot the three. He didn’t want me to do anything else,” said Rutledge. “He said play defense, and I’ve gotten better on the defensive end, but he wanted me to shoot the ball so that’s what I do.”

Confidence in himself and in him by Riley played a part in his performance.

“To be honest, he’s got the ultimate green light,” Riley said. “He may be the best shooter that I’ve ever coached and when he shoots, I believe all his shots are going in. Some nights he gets rolling like that.”

SENIOR NIGHT

The Colonels will face a challenge on their Senior Night as they take on the University of New Orleans. The Privateers (14-13, 11-5 SLC) were last year’s winner of both the Southland Conference and the Southland Conference tournament.

[The University of] New Orleans is really physical, they’re a great defensive team. Offensively, they play in the paint,” Riley said. “They’re physical, they have a strong inside presence with really good guard play so it’s going to be a battle.”

This game will mark the last home game for the team’s eight seniors. The game will be the seniors’ last chance to show off in front of their home crowd and they are not taking that for granted.

It’s going to mean a lot to me,” said Jahvaughn Powell. “I came here two years ago with a plan to do something big for Colonel Nation and we’re in the midst of that right now. It’s going to be very exciting.”

The game tonight at Stopher Gymnasium is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

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