Nicholls State basketball coach J.P. Piper will admit his team caught LSU and Tulane at the right time. His team is experienced. Those teams are not.
With that nod to karma accounted for, Piper is also darn proud of those wins.
“My first memories of basketball are LSU basketball,” he said. “To go into that arena and beat that team is pretty special.”
Nicholls State, a school of 7,181 students located in Thibodaux, La., defeated LSU 62-53 on Nov. 16. The Colonels followed that with a 66-52 win over Tulane. The Colonels were 0-16 against LSU and 0-18 against Tulane.
“It was like a dream come true for me,” Nicholls State senior Anatoly Bose said about the LSU win. “A lot of people weren’t expecting us to come close.”
Most Wichita State fans didn’t expect a close game when the schedule came out. Nicholls State appeared to be another home blowout waiting to happen. Instead, the Colonels (4-2) appear to be a team that will challenge the Shockers (5-2) on Friday night at Koch Arena.
While wins over LSU and Tulane play big in Louisiana, Piper knows the reality. As a member of the Southland Conference, the Colonels need to win their conference tournament to make the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re not ready to go to the Final Four yet,” Piper said. “We told our kids ‘This is nice, and enjoy the moment.’ The only that really matters is the league games. Wichita State prepares us for the league.”
WSU will need to do some prepararation of its own. The Colonels, who also lost in overtime at Houston and at Oklahoma State, won’t be an easy mark. The Colonels, using a man-to-man defense and patient offense, hold opponents to under 60 points a game.
“These guys don’t mind guarding,” Piper said. “We have a group that doesn’t mind playing hard.”
On offense, he gets the ball to Bose and lets him make the offense work.
“Anatoly Bose is a high-major offensive player,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “You can’t foul him. He shoots 88 percent from the foul line. We’ve got to guard him without fouling.”
Entering Wednesday's game against Loyola-New Orleans, Bose averaged 27.4 points and made 37.8 percent of his three-pointers.
“”Other kids play off him,” Piper said. “It’s not set — it’s what he sees and feels. It makes him hard to guard, because you can’t predict where he’s going to go.”
Guard Fred Hunter averages 15.6 points and no other player averages double figures. Bose and Hunter account for more than half of Nicholls State’s shots and points.
Bose, a 6-foot-6 guard, scored 28 at LSU, making 10 of 13 free throws. He scored 27 points at Oklahoma State, making 9 of 24 shots and 5 of 10 threes.
“I try to start my game on the defensive end,” Bose said. “The scoring takes care of itself.”