The Nicholls State women’s basketball team never trailed Wednesday night in a resounding 81-60 victory over Abilene Christian in Southland Conference action at Stopher Gymnasium.
Cassidy Barrios sparked the Colonels with 26 points and 11 rebounds, along with Tykeria Williams with 15 points, six assists and Airi Hamilton with 13 points, five rebounds.
Dominique Golightly led the Wildcats with 14 points, followed by Breanna Wright with 13 points and Sierra Allen with 10 points.
“We shut down their offense and forced turnovers. They lead the conference in three point shooting. We couldn’t let that be a factor,” Colonels head coach DoBee Plaisance said. “We had 23 fast break points, and that’s all about defense. We dominated every quarter.”
“This was our most disappointing game of the season,” Wildcats head coach Julie Goodnight. “Nicholls did a great job of starting out strong. We gave up three straight layups to start the game, and we knew we were in for a rough night.”
Nicholls (10-12 overall, 5-6 SLC) controlled the paint on both ends of the floor. The Colonels outrebounded Abilene Christian 40-25, including 13 offensive boards. On offense, they routinely got to the basket for layups with little resistance.
Nicholls attacked the rim from the start. The Colonels built an early 14-6 advantage with Barrios and Williams scoring a pair of layups in transition.
Meanwhile, Abilene Christian (14-8, 8-4 SLC) went beyond the arc to stay close. They drained four 3-pointers, and Allen added a three-point play to pull the Wildcats within 21-18 after the first quarter.
The Colonels constant penetration in the lane forced Abilene Christian to foul. Nicholls capitalized going 10-for-10 from the free throw line in the first half. Every time the Wildcats got close, Williams nailed a clutch three pointer, including a wide open three in the waning seconds, to give Nicholls a 41-33 halftime lead.
“This is probably the best we played all conference play,” Barrios said. “This is a tough team. We knew we had to come out fighting. Once we got the lead we couldn’t let it go because we couldn’t give them momentum. When we play together, we win.”
“We were trying to switch on screens, and we had one player who switch and gave her that wide open three,” Goodnight said. “I felt that was the turning point for us. We were clawing back and that cost us dearly.”
Nicholls sprinted out of the second half with eight straight fast-break points: a layup by Barrios and three uncontested layups from Hamilton. Conversely, the Colonels defense limited Abilene Christian to nine points in the entire third quarter, clogging the paint and running out on every three point attempt.
“When they scored, it was when missed our assignments. As long as we were hitting our assignments, we were getting stops and turnovers,” Plaisance said. “We just had to communicate more.
“We missed three layups in a row. The missed layups and turnovers were really costly because Nicholls did such a great scoring in transition,” Goodnight said. “I’ve never seen my team play with this lack of intensity before.”
Barrios got hot down the stretch to seal the victory. She was fouled on a jumper for a three-point play to end the third quarter. In the fourth, she nailed a trio of 3-pointers from the wing, while Marina Lilly (seven points, 11 rebounds) scored consecutive wide open layups.
“My teammates did a great job of finding me in open space, and I had to knock them down,” Barrios said. “We get in the gym everyday so when we get in the game we can knock them down.”
“I had some adjustments to the offense to change the spacing. We emphasized to get more motion, some more on ball and harder cuts,” Plaisance said. “If you’re going to screen hard and cut hard, that’s going to create more offense.”
After back-to-back conference wins, Plaisance said she believes the Colonels are ready to play their play basketball down the stretch of the season.
“We came together a week ago. I made a push for them to realize this is about us,” she said. “I told them there’s greatness yet to come. I don’t want you to beat anybody. I want the Colonels to win. We’re just touching the surface of coming together, playing hard and putting together 40 minutes.”