The Western Nebraska Community College men’s basketball team fell behind by 19 points in the second half, but put together a big defensive effort in falling 78-73 to No. 11 College of Southern Idaho Thursday night at Cougar Palace.
WNCC head coach Billy Engel said his team played hard, but they just have to stop digging themselves holes to climb out of.
“When things got tough, they did play well. They dug deep and found a way to rely on each other and good things happen,” Engel said. “Going forward we have to stop digging ourselves a hole. It is taking us digging ourselves a hole before we wake up and start playing basketball. That is something we will have to change going forward.”
The first part of the opening half was a battle as CSI held a 16-12 lead after Carter Brown hit a trey. After that, the Golden Eagles went on a 9-0 run to go up 27-12 and later led 31-16. WNCC came back to slice the lead to 10 points at 31-21, but the No. 11 team in the nation pushed the lead to 40-25 before Issad Solano nailed a trey to send the Cougars into the locker room trailing 40-28.
The second half saw WNCC score five quick points from a trey by Chase Thompson and a bucket by Them Koang. That was when CSI got hot, going on an 11-0 run to lead 51-33 and later led by 19 points at 56-37.
That was where WNCC woke up and fought back and cut the lead to single digits at 63-55 after Thompson had four points. The Cougars kept finding that will, cutting the lead to six points at 69-63 on a Agwa Nywesh trey with 3:19 to play.
WNCC kept playing strong defense and dug even deeper as they cut the lead to four points with under a minute to play on a Solano bucket. The Cougar defense then force a turnover, but missed a trey that would have got the CSI lead to one. CSI hit two free throws to go up 76-70 with about 30 seconds to play.
WNCC still had some fight in them when Thompson knocked down a trey to slice the lead to 76-73 with 22.5 seconds to play. CSI hit two more free throws to go up 78-73 with 17.5 seconds and got the win.
Shooting was the big difference in the game. CSI was 53 percent from the field and converted 14 of 16 free throws. WNCC shot 37 percent from the field and just 27 percent from beyond the arc. The Cougars were 14 of 18 from the charity stripe.
WNCC had four players in double digits. Thompson led the way with 21 points, including three treys. Koang finished with 19 points followed by Nywesh with 11 points and Solano with 10.
CSI was led by Stevie Smith with 22 points with five 3-pointers.
WNCC will be back in action Tuesday and Wednesday when they hit the road for games at Laramie County Community College on Tuesday and Casper College on Wednesday.
CSI 40 38 – 78
WNCC 28 45 – 73
KT Raimey 5, Deng Dot 14, Stevie Smith 22, Amoro Lado 15, Eric Grier 4, Sebastian Reynoso-Jimenez 9, Tsotne Tsartsidze 7, Chayce Polynice 2.
Carter Brown 6, Chase Thompson 21, Tayler Johnson 3, Tyler Mack 3, Agwa Nywesh 11, Issad Solano 10, Them Koang 19.