In a turn of events, it was the Central Lakes College Raiders who fell victim to a relentless attack Tuesday in Brainerd.
Usually it’s the Raiders’ vaunted defense that assaults opponents on their home floor. Tuesday the North Dakota State College of Science Wildcats dominated the paint and exploded for a 43-27 second half to beat the Raiders 83-62.
NDSCS outrebounded the Raiders 48-19. That number helped the Wildcats to a 20-7 edge in second-chance points. Trayvon Palmer, a 6-foot-5 freshman forward, collected 12 boards, helping him to 17 points. Freshman Johnny Woodard from Duluth led the Wildcats with 18 points.
“Our guys showed some grit and (Trayvon) got some things inside,” said NDSCS head coach Stu Engen. “We got a couple of post-ups and we were able to take advantage of some of their switches. We got some offensive rebounds and some things like that. We were a little bigger than they are. I think maybe they finally just wore down a little bit.”
Dion Bradley came off the bench to score 13 points for the Wildcats and Jamal Davis added 12. NDSCS shot 51.7 percent in the second half and used a 16-3 run late in the second half to blow open the game.
“They were very athletic and very quick,” said CLC head coach Jim Russell. “Overall, I thought for 33 minutes we played with them. In fact, I thought we controlled the situation quite a bit. The only thing that beat us was the offensive rebounds. They had a lot of putbacks and we didn’t get a lot of putbacks.”
John Jedneak’s two free throws cut the Wildcats’ lead to 59-56 before NDSCS’ big run. Jedneak finished with 10 points. Bryan Gichaba led the Raiders with 15 points.
CLC shot 57 percent (4-of-7) from 3-point in the first half, but just 2-8 (25 percent) in the second. CLC also turned the ball over 15 times compared to the Wildcats’ 10. NDSCS turned those turnovers into 14 points.
“We got tired and this is when I don’t like the 3-point line,” said Russell. “It’s the easy fix. We felt like we wanted an easy fix and decided to just throw it up. As soon as we threw it up they got fast-break points and blew it open. Our momentum was just gone.
“In that first half, when we were making threes, we had rhythm. We passed the ball and we got into a rhythm. The first 20 minutes was great basketball for us. Again, for 33 minutes, I thought we played like a team that could win. But the game is 40 minutes long.”
There were four lead changes and five ties, but CLC never led in the second half. CLC’s biggest lead was 31-26, but the Wildcats used a 9-0 run to erase it and take their own lead at 2:09 of the first half. It was the last lead change.
“Jim gets those guys playing so hard,” said Engen. “He’s probably the best coach in the state of Minnesota. I really believe that. They’re skilled all the way around. They play together and there is just this certain grit. That first half they really had us going. They had us back on our heels.
“I tell you one thing, that final score did not represent that contest. That was a closely played game.”
NDSCS 39 43 — 82
Central Lakes 36 27 — 63
Evan Battle 8, Dion Bradley 13, Jamal Davis 12, Tim Gill 2, Desmond Jackson 2, Stephan Lambert 4, Trayvon Palmer 17, Quashingm Smith-Pugh 6, Johnny Woodard 18. FG 29-63 (46 percent), FT 18-23 (78.3 percent). 3-point 6-16 (37.5 percent).
Benji Subah 2, Marcus Brown 6, Melvin Martin 1, Malik Marshall 2, Isaac Sawyer 7, Bryan Gichaba 15, John Jedneak 10, Mario Miller 8, Herbert Tarpeh 2, Alex Koch 10. FG 25-53 (47.2 percent), FT 7-14 (50 percent). 3-point 6-15 (40 percent).