The Bears (9-11, 4-6 Southland Conference) led by 10 before Eric Hunter scored six straight points to get Nicholls State within 75-71 with 1:45 remaining. Amin Torres' 3-pointer made it 78-76 with 12 seconds left, and after a free throw by Crawford, Torres had a chance to tie from behind the arc with two seconds left, but missed.
Hunter had 36 points and 11 rebounds for the Colonels (6-14, 4-6). Torres had 10 points and Dantrell Thomas 11 rebounds for Nicholls State.
Leading scorer Jarvis Garner did not play for Central Arkansas while serving the second game of a two-game suspension for breaking team rules.