The 14th-ranked Western Nebraska Community College men's basketball team scored 51 second-half points to come back to top Colby Community College 88-85 Wednesday evening at Cougar Palace in the Cougars' home opener.
The big difference in the game was second half shooting and rebounding.
"The first half we came out very slow and we weren't playing good defense," Bryce Sanchious, who finished with 16 points including a couple eye-popping, second half dunks, said. "The second half, coach told us to play defense."
Defense was a big key and Sanchious said that is something that they have to get better at.
"We are a pretty good offensive team right now because that is what we work on in practice," he said. "Right now we have to work on our defense because we can't have teams scoring over 80 points on us."
The second half was the turning point for the Cougars. In the opening half, WNCC shot just 39 percent from long-range in making seven 3-pointers but just 42 percent from the field. Colby shot 55 percent from the field in the opening half. Colby even had a 21-18 rebound edge in the opening first half.
WNCC started strong as Jervay Green had five straight points for a 32-27 WNCC lead with 6 minutes to play. That was when Colby took the lead, going on a 9-0 run to lead 36-32 with 4:11 to play. The Trojans pushed the lead to double digits at 44-34 and led 49-37 at halftime.
Sanchious said they knew going into the locker room what they needed to do in the second half.
"We knew going into halftime what we needed to do since they were out-rebounding us," he said. "The second half rebounding was totally different."
Rebounding and shooting picked up for the Cougars. WNCC had 17 big rebounds but it was the shooting that heated up with an electric student section that was got the Cougars energized. WNCC shot 69 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes and were 6 of 7 from long range. Colby shot 35 percent in the second half.
Early on in the second half Colby continued to play strong as they held a double digit lead for the first eight minutes of the contest, leading 68-50 at one time. It was at that junction that the Cougar offense hyped up, going on a 10-0 run to cut the lead to 68-60 on a Sanchiouis electrifying dunk.
Colby and WNCC kept trading buckets and led 75-68 on a Craig Beaudeon trey. WNCC responded with authority after that and it all started with another Sanchious energizing dunk. The Cougars took their first lead of the game since midway in the first half at 76-75 on a Dru Kuxhausen 3-pointer with 4:32 to play.
Colby went back in front with a bucket by Rian Carter, but the Cougars went on a 7-0 run on 3-pointers by Kuxhausen and Green to lead 83-77.
The contest stayed close to the end. Colby sliced the lead to one, 84-83, with 22.7 seconds. Kuxhausen hit four free throws in the final 10 seconds to an 88-85 lead. Colby had one last hope of tying the game in the final 3.2 seconds. Carter brought the ball to past half court and shot a desperation 3-pointer that hit the rim but didn't go in as the final buzzer went off.
WNCC had just five players hit the scoring column on the night. Green led all scorers with 30 points, including making four 3-pointers.
Kuxhausen finished with 24 points with six treys, while Sanchious had 16 points.
Colby finished the game with four players in double figures. Ed Oliver-Hampton led the team with 21 points followed by Craig Beaudion with 19, Carter with 15, and Javion May with 10.
WNCC, 3-0, will be back in action this weekend for the Region 9/18 Classic when Casper, College of Southern Idaho, and Salt Lake Community College come to WNCC. Friday's schedule has Casper facing Salt Lake at 5:30 p.m. followed by WNCC and No. 3 CSI at 7:30 p.m. Saturday's schedule pits CSI and Casper together at 4 p.m. with WNCC and No. 8 Salt Lake battling at 6 p.m.
Colby (2-1) 49 36 – 85
WNCC (3-0) 37 51 – 89
Rian Carter15, Javion May 10, Craig Beaudion 19, Caleb Jones McCray 6, Gabe Oliveira 2, Eddie Davis 3, Ed Oliver-Hampton 21, Eric Turner 5, Moses Bol 4.