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Southeastern overcomes 21-point deficit to down Nicholls on Ryan Burkhardt buzzer-beater
HAMMOND, La. – Senior Ryan Burkhardt tipped in an offensive rebound as time expired to complete a 21-point comeback, 83-81, victory for the Southeastern Louisiana University men's basketball team on Senior Day over Nicholls Saturday afternoon at the University Center.
With the game tied at 81-81, the Lions (17-13, 9-4 Southland) had possession with 19 seconds left. SLU ran the clock down and put the ball in senior captain Keon Clergeot's hands. The Winter Haven, Florida native got a good shot off from the near side wing but just missed. Burkhardt, however, was there to tip in the miss with his right hand as time expired, sending the University Center crowd into a frenzy.
"We wanted to run a play with about eight seconds left," said SLU men's head basketball coach David Kiefer. "We got the ball in Keon's hands and got a good look at the game-winner which I thought was going in. Then Burkhardt flies out of nowhere to tip it in to win. It was an unbelievable finish and I couldn't be prouder of this team."
The Lions were led by Joe Kasperzyk with 21 points to help lead the comeback. Gus Okafor, SLU's leading scorer, added 17 points and also grabbed 12 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season. Clergeot and Jalyn Hinton both added 12 points while Saturday's hero, Burkhardt, finished with 10 points.
With the win, Southeastern has defeated Nicholls three-times this year as it pushed to within a half game of second place in the Southland Conference Standings. The Lions improved to 10-1 at home as they also snapped the Colonels' eight-game winning streak.
Nicholls (19-10, 9-3 Southland) got off to a hot start as Southland preseason player of the Ty Gordon scored 26 first half points to give the Colonels a 48-34 halftime lead. Gordon finished the game with 33 points to lead Nicholls.
In the second half, the Colonels continued to pour it on as they stretched their lead to 58-37, with 16:36 left putting the Lions' in their largest deficit at home this season.
Nicholls maintained a sizeable lead as it led, 69-50, with 11:38 left in the game when the Lions' offense woke up.
"I think early in the game we are little bit pressed on senior night," said Kiefer. "Early on, we had guys playing in front of friends and family and were a little up tight. But once we calmed down and started playing our game, things turned in the right direction."
SLU exploded on a 11-0 run highlighted by eight points from junior Joe Kasperzyk, who finished the game with a team-high 21 points, to make it 69-61.
The Colonels regained a double-digit lead just before the final media timeout as they led 78-67 with 4:39 to go. But Again, the Lions responded, going on a 10-0 run to cut the Colonels' lead to 78-77 as Gus Okafor drilled two three-pointers during the run.
Moments later, Okafor canned a jumper from the wing to tie the game at 79-79 as SLU had all but completed the 21-point comeback.
The two teams traded buckets on the ensuing possession setting the stage for Burkhardt's heroics and the eventual game-winner.
"Our team just has a hate to lose attitude," saidKiefer. "They never put their heads down and never pointed fingers. They stuck with the game plan. We've just got a really tough group of kids and I'm lucky to be their coach."
Southeastern finished 29-for-61 (47.5 percent) from the field for the game and were 18-for-29 (62 percent) in the second half. SLU also was 10-for-26 from the three-point line, upping their season total to 271, 16 shy of tying the all-time Southland Conference record set by Sam Houston (287) in 2010.
Next up, the Lions will have nearly a week off before wrapping up the regular season Saturday, March 5 on the road against Northwestern State (9-21, 5-8 Southland) at 3 p.m.
The Demons defeated New Orleans (16-11, 9-3 Southland), 87-77, at home Saturday afternoon.
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