NICEVILLE, FLA. – Guard Gavin Peppers’ running floater with 16.9 seconds left lifted Nicholls State to a 62-61 overtime victory past Western Michigan in the fifth-place game of the Emerald Coast Classic Saturday.
Peppers’ game winning heroics came over the outstretched hands of Western Michigan’s seven-foot center Seth Dugan.
“He’s (Peppers) a fifth-year guy making a senior play,” said Nicholls State coach Austin Claunch. “He’s been struggling, not just today but the past couple of games. He’s been playing okay, just not shooting it great. I trust him, he’s a guy that has been here before and has unbelievable poise. More than anything, he deserves this, he’s the hardest worker maybe I’ve been around. So, in those moments he has earned the right to make the plays in those moments.”
Western Michigan had two opportunities to go ahead but a three-point shot from Josh Davis and a six-foot jumper in the paint by Michael Flowers fell short in the waning seconds.
There were nine ties in the second half, while the lead changed hands six times.
With the score tied at 55-55, Nicholls State had an opportunity to win the game in regulation but Kawanise Wilkins blocked a driving layup by Kevin Johnson with 1.5 seconds left.
“We guarded really well in the first half also,” added Claunch. “We just made tough plays and gave us a chance to win at the end. I think we had the ball twice up two in the last minute and couldn’t convert. They made a big bucket to tie. We had a shot at the end but just didn’t do it and went to overtime. We just gutted it out, Garrick had a huge three to cut the lead back to one. It’s a great win for us.”
Two free throws and a layup by Dugan staked Western Michigan to a 59-55 lead with 4:19 left in overtime.
Nicholls State, concluding a seven-game road swing which included stops to Louisville, Washington State, Idaho, Baylor and Ole Miss, leveled its record to 4-4.
Peppers led Nicholls State with 18 points, while junior guard Danny Garrick added 12 points and junior forward Elvis Harvey 10.
Dugan finished with a game high 22 points and 12 rebounds, while blocking two shots for Western Michigan, which fell to 4-3.
Sophomore guard Michael Flowers added 17 points, scoring seven straight points in a 97-second span midway through the second half.
With Dugan dominating the paint, Western Michigan owned a 27-19 halftime lead.
The Broncos outrebounded Nicholls State, 44-35, scoring 13 second-chance points compared to just two by the Colonels.
Nicholls State won despite shooting just 34.8 percent from the floor (23-66). Western Michigan hit 40.7 percent from the floor (24-59).