KATY, Texas -- For the Nicholls men's basketball team, one big injury was too much to overcome at last weekend's 2018 Southland Conference Men's Basketball Tournament.

When the Colonels took the court against Stephen F. Austin at the Leonard E. Merrill Center, one of their key players was missing on the court -- senior guard Tevon Saddler.

Nicholls played Friday’s conference tournament semifinal game without Saddler, the team’s second-leading scorer, after suffering a right knee injury against Northwestern State on Feb. 28.

Saddler's loss was a tough blow for the Colonels' NCAA Tournament hopes. Nicholls closed out the 2017-18 season with back-to-back losses, which included a 78-66 loss to Stephen F. Austin in the Southland tournament semifinals.

The Colonels ended the season 21-11 overall and shared the Southland Conference's regular-season title with Southeastern Louisiana.

Senior guard Roddy Peters said playing without Saddler was a tough adjustment for the Colonels.

"He is the heart of this team, and he does all of the tough things," said Peters, the Southland Conference's Newcomer of the Year and a first-team selection. "We had to adjust the way we were playing because teams were changing things up without Tevon in the lineup."

Saddler’s absence was felt as the Colonels were missing their second leading scorer (15.8 points per game) and leading rebounder (6.6 per game). He was a second-team All-Southland Conference selection.

Without Saddler, Nicholls' offense struggled in losses to Southeastern Louisiana in the regular-season finale and Stephen F. Austin at the conference tournament. The Colonels were held to their lowest point total (57) against Southeastern Louisiana and worst shooting performance (17-of-59 for 28.8 percent) against Stephen F. Austin.

“They defended us very well and better than most teams had all season,” Nicholls senior guard Lafayette Rutledge said. “They forced us into some tough shots, and they were not falling. In order to score, you have to put the ball in the air and we just didn’t make enough plays in the end.”

Although it was not the outcome the team wanted, Nicholls coach Richie Riley said it will still be remembered as a special season and one of the best in school history.

It was the first time Nicholls won or shared the Southland Conference's regular season title since 1998 and third overall (1995). During those seasons, Nicholls represented the Southland Conference in the NCAA Tournament.

"These guys came here and took a chance on a 33-year-old head coach who had never called his own timeout," Riley said. "That whole team is basically our team, as we inherited only one guy (Steve Repichowski). I told them we wanted to change the program when we recruited these guys, and they did just that. They also helped a young coach learn along the way and having a special group of players made that possible."

Riley heads into the offseason looking to fill many holes as the team has to replace eight players -- Peters, Saddler, Rutledge, Repichowski, Jahvaughn Powell, Kimani Jackson, Legend Robertin and Zach Young. Those players accounted for 106 games started and 82 percent of the team's points last season.

While replacing those players will be tough, Riley said the Colonels already have a good foundation in place with two freshmen starters -- Kevin Johnson and Ryghe Lyons -- returning next season.

Riley said he is confident the Nicholls basketball program is on the right path and will be back in Katy for next season's Southland Conference Tournament.

"People want to come play for a winners and being co-champions in this league and the type of year we had will only help that," he said. "We built a program at a place where many people said it couldn't be done. I'm so proud that we were able to do this, and a lot of the credit goes to our kids."