Nicholls Heads to Duquesne for Season Opener

THIBODAUX -After one of the most successful seasons in school history behind them, the Nicholls State University men's basketball team will look to pick up where it left off when they open the 2009-10 season on the road at 2009 National Invitational Tournament Qualifier Duquesne on Friday night.

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The Colonels enter their first ever contest against Duquesne, or any other current Atlantic 10 school for that matter, looking to build on the momentum of their first 20-win season since 1994-98.

Nicholls enters the new season as favorites in the Southland Conference, taking the top spot in the East Division in the preseason sports information director poll and second in the East Division in the coaches poll.

Meanwhile, Blue Ribbon Yearbook listed the Colonels first in the SLC East Division in their preseason forecast, and Rivals.com ranked the Colonels 98th overall, making Nicholls the only SLC program in the preseason Top 100. However, head coach J.P. Piper is making sure his team doesn't think doesn't pay too much attention to the preseason hype.

"We're nowhere near being a finished product, we still have a lot of work to do," Piper said. "I like the attention we've shown and the efforts our players have shown in preseason practice trying to get to where we want to be. We just aren't there yet. I think we will get there. I'm excited about the prospects of this team. We know we have a very challenging November schedule ahead of us.

But, as a coaching staff, we will work to try to turn as many negatives into positives as we can and work to shape our team up and get us in form for conference play."

The Colonels will return three starters from last year's squad in preseason first team All-SLC selection Anatoly Bose, 2008-09 SLC Freshman of the Year Fred Hunter and junior guard Kellan Carter, who finished 18th in the nation with 2.4 steals per game last season.

However, Duquesne will also be looking to capitalize on a successful 2008-09 campaign. The Dukes return four of five starters and lost just one letterman from last season's NIT qualifier. Duquesne will be led by preseason All A-10 selections Damian Saunders and Bill Clark.

Friday's contest marks the opener of a stretch of eight straight games away from home. The Colonels will not return home until opening a three-game homestand beginning Dec. 3.

"Every team is different," Piper said. "Last year's team was much more established and we were very concerned with our pre-conference record. There's less of a focus on that for me right now. Our focus is more on establishing our identity. Wins and losses are secondary for us in the pre-conference season this year. Can we play with a high intensity level for a sustained period of time? Can we consistently chase rebounds on the defensive end? Those are the things I want to see.

"Rest assured, we're going to try to win every game. We want to match Duquesne's intensity and toughness. We want to see the things that we've been working on in practice show up in the game. On paper, they may be the superior team, but I want to see us frustrate them, take them out of their offense and execute our offense against them. If those things are happening, then we are on our way to winning. It may not show up on Friday night in the Duquesne game, but it would be a good benchmark that we are on our way. If we play the right way against Duquesne and lose, I'll be okay with that. I know this, if we do play the right way, we will give ourselves a chance to win."

Tipoff for Friday's contest is scheduled for 7 p.m. central time at the A.J. Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh. Following their tilt with the Dukes, the Colonels will visit the University of Houston on Nov. 17 before heading to the World Vision Classic in Albuquerque Nov. 20-22 and the Great Alaska Shootout from Nov. 26-28.

Live stats for Friday's season opener will be available online at GeuaxColonels.com and live audio will be made possible courtesy of ThibodauxOnline.com.


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