Second-Half Surge Propels Men’s Hoops Past Nichols, 78-71

Second-Half Surge Propels Men’s Hoops Past Nichols, 78-71

DUDLEY, Mass.- Behind a 22-point, 17-rebound effort by senior Chima Ezeigbo (Roanoke, Va.), the Eastern Nazarene men's basketball team captured a 78-71 victory on the road at Nichols Thursday evening. The Lions improved to 8-3 overall and 3-2 in the Commonwealth Coast Conference with the win. The loss drops the Bison to 6-6 on the year and 1-4 in league play.

Along with Ezeigbo's third double-double of the season, three other players registered double-figure points for the visitors. Mike McCoy (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) notched 13 points while Brian Hard (Weymouth, Mass.) totaled 12 points. Jaylen Owens (Johns Creek, Ga.) recorded 10 points and eight assists on the night. Rookies Eric Lynch (Alpharetta, Ga.) and Justin Wagner (Oklahoma City, Okla.) each chipped in with eight points off the bench.

Ezeigbo opened the scoring 2:03 into the contest with a pair of shots from the charity stripe to give the away side a 2-0 edge.

The Lions held a slight lead early in the contest before Nichols claimed a one-point advantage midway through the opening half as Justin Kuntz converted two free throws.

Eastern Nazarene went ahead by three with 9:20 remaining as Ezeigbo knocked down a jumper then flushed a dunk for his 12th point of the evening.

The visitors pushed the margin to six, 23-17, with 6:31 left to play in the first half on a three-pointer by Hard.

Nichols responded with a 9-0 run to take a 31-26 lead with three minutes remaining until halftime.

The Lions cut the deficit to two, 36-34, in the final seconds of the first period. Justin Wagner drained his second three-pointer of the game with two seconds remaining.

Ezeigbo scored a game-high 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the first half while Hard netted seven for Eastern Nazarene. Justin Wagner tallied six points through 20 minutes of play on 2-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc.

The Lions shot 40% from the field in the opening half while the Bison owned a field-goal percentage of 35.1% at halftime.

Owens leveled the score at 36-36 after stealing the ball and finishing a fast-break lay-up 31 seconds into the half. The rookie lifted Eastern Nazarene ahead by three, 39-36, with his first trey of the night on the Lions' next trip down the floor.

After Nichols knotted the score at 52-52, the Lions took a five-point lead, 57-52, with 9:09 left to play.

The Bison grabbed a 60-59 edge with 6:57 on the clock as Kyle Mascilak banked in a lay-up.

Eastern Nazarene answered with an 11-1 run to move ahead by nine, 70-61, with 3:36 remaining in regulation. The Lions stretched the lead to 11, their largest of the game, with 2:11 to go in the contest as Ezeigbo scored a lay-in.

Nichols sliced the deficit to five in the final minute of action, 76-71, but Eastern Nazarene tacked on two points on a layup by Hard with 36 second remaining to secure the victory.

The Lions finished the game with a field-goal percentage of 44.6% while shooting 32.0% from downtown. The Bison shot 36.8% from the floor in the contest and connected on 5-of-24 from behind the arc.

Eastern Nazarene will look to claim its third-straight conference win as it returns home to take on Western New England January 12.