DUDLEY, Mass.- The Eastern Nazarene men's basketball team earned an crucial 84-81 win at Nichols Thursday evening.
The Lions improve to 15-4 on the year while moving into a tie for second place in the Commonwealth Coast Conference with a 9-4 mark. The Bison drop to 15-5 overall and remain atop the league standings with an 11-2 conference record.
Eric Lynch (Alpharetta, Ga.) set a new career-high with 23 points while also adding seven boards on the night. Jaylen Owens (Johns Creek, Ga.) notched 15 points and registered eight assists. Lequan Gomes (Fairfield, Calif.) finished with 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench. Jeremy Wagner (Oklahoma City, Okla.) poured in nine points in the contest while Brian Hard (Weymouth, Mass.) and Justin Wagner (Oklahoma City, Okla.) each chipped in with eight points.
Eastern Nazarene seized an early 10-4 lead as Owens tossed in a lay-up with 15:17 left to play in the half.
Nichols battled back to grab a 15-13 edge with 11:57 on the clock as Marlon Bennett capped off an 11-3 run with a trey.
The Lions reclaimed a 23-21 advantage with 7:55 remaining on a three-pointer by Justin Wagner.
The two squads swapped buckets and Eric Lynch leveled the score for the seventh time in the contest with 1:31 left to play with a lay-in, 41-41.
Eastern Nazarene captured a 44-41 edge with 49 seconds remaining as Hard drained his second trey of the game.
The Bison responded with a three-pointer by Gustave Koumare on their ensuing possession to knot the score at 44-44.
The teams headed into the halftime break deadlocked at 44-44.
The Lions connected on 44.4% of their shot attempts in the opening frame, including 42.9% from beyond the arc. Nichols shot 57.1% from the field in the first period and sank 8-of-13 from long distance.
Eric Lynch paced the visitors with 13 first-half points while Gomes notched seven points and seven rebounds. Hard and Justin Wagner each poured in six points in the first frame.
Eastern Nazarene opened the second half on a 7-2 run to establish a 51-46 lead with 17 minutes left to play.
Nichols bounced back to go ahead 52-51 with 14:47 remaining after three straight baskets.
Owens halted the hosts' run with a lay-up with 14 minutes to go in the contest to give the Lions a 53-52 advantage.
The Bison grabbed a 59-55 lead with 12:08 left to play as Koumare banked in a fast-break layup.
Eastern Nazarene cut the deficit to one with 10:40 remaining as Jeremy Wagner drilled his third three-pointer of the evening, 61-60.
The home side tallied four consecutive points to stretch the margin to 65-60 midway through the second half.
The visitors strung together a 12-4 run to collect a 72-69 edge with 5:40 left to play. The Lions extended their advantage to 75-71 with 5:12 remaining as Christian Lynch (Alpharetta, Ga.) completed a three-point play at the charity stripe. Owens followed with another three-point play after getting fouled while making a lay-up to push the gap to 78-73 with 3:44 on the clock.
After Nichols pulled to within two, 78-76, Eric Lynch netted a put-back lay-up with 47 seconds left in the contest to increase the lead to four, 80-76.
The Bison trimmed the deficit to 80-79 with less than 30 seconds remaining as Koumare converted a pair of free throws.
Eastern Nazarene used four free throws in the final 17 seconds and a late steal by Owens to fend off Nichols.
The Lions shot 45.6% from the floor and 36.4% from three-point land in the victory. The Bison finished the game with a field-goal percentage of 51.7% to go with 9-for-20 shooting from outside the arc.
Koumare paced the hosts with 17 points while three other players tallied 10. The Lions limited the league's top scorer, Ryan Sheehan, to just seven points on the night.
Up next, Eastern Nazarene returns home to square off against Wentworth February 8 in a key league tilt.