The Eagles’ men’s basketball team went 1-1 in two tightly-contested games in Utah over the weekend, falling to the Westminster Griffins 93-86 in overtime, Friday, but bouncing back to edge the Dixie State Trailblazers 64-61, Saturday.
CSC built an early 26-9 lead on the Trailblazers but had difficulty putting Dixie away through the remainder of the game. Dixie State managed to close the gap to 62-61 with about 20 seconds remaining, forcing CSC to rely on a pair of game-clenching free throws from guard Colby Jackson, junior of Las Vegas, Nevada.
The win helped provide a lift for the team which lost both of its previous games, including to Westminster the night before, in overtime, something of a rarity for CSC in the past.
“I think overtime has been new territory for our entire program,” CSC Head Coach Houston Reed said. “I think we’re turning that corner. We are getting ourselves in scenarios basketball-wise that we haven’t been in years past.”
Playing, and losing, overtime games is a sign that the CSC men are still learning how to close games, Reed said.
“They say the stat is like 75-percent of NCAA games are within six points going into the last two minutes,” Reed said. “You do all this work for 38 minutes and you need to know how to finish it. We talk about baseball and how baseball has closers who come in to finish, and they make big money. That shows how important it is to know how to close.”
Knowing that importance, Reed says the team was focused on playing with confidence against Dixie.
“We came out determined,” Chadron State Head Coach Houston Reed said. “Losing two overtime games in a row, we talked a lot that if we had two possessions make the difference, we go from 5-4 to 7-2.
We wanted to play (against Dixie) with confidence like we’re 7-2, because two plays don’t define us. I thought (the team) were tuned in, played with intensity, and played together very well.”
The Eagles out-rebounded the Trailblazers 46-27, including 16 offensive rebounds to Dixie State’s six.
Chadron guard Diontae Champion, senior of Pearl, Mississippi, led the Eagles with 13 points and eight rebounds. Jackson was next-best with 11 points from two 3-pointers and five free throws.
CSC lost a key contributor in the first half against the Trailblazers when junior Michael Sparks, of Denver, suffered a sprained ankle and didn’t play the remainder of the game. Filling in for Sparks, Jordan Mills, junior of Alliance, shot 50-percent from the field and added six points off the bench.
On Friday, the Eagles traveled to Salt Lake City where they found themselves trailing 70-64 with about thirty seconds remaining, but a 3-pointer from Jackson helped keep the team in contention and lapse in discipline from Westminster’s Jake Conner set up the Eagles, who trailed 75-72, with five free throws.
Connor fouled CSC’s Champion as he shot a would-be game-tying 3-pointer near the buzzer, and then argued the call, leading to being assessed a technical. Shooting for the technical, Jackson hit just one of two from the line, and Champion then sank two of his three opportunities to send the Eagles into overtime.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, they’d once again be unable to control play in extra time and were outscored 18-11. 12 of the Griffins overtime points came from free throws.
Turnovers helped dictate the outcome of the game with the Eagles losing the battle 19-15. Four Eagle turnovers occurred in overtime.
Champion and Jackson once again led the Eagles in scoring, Champion with 18 points and Jackson with 15. With the game on the line, Jackson, Champion and Delimont scored 11 points in under 30 seconds to force overtime.
The Eagles matched their season average on offense shooting .431 from the field, but fell shortly below average after shooting .313 from the 3-point line. Chadron sank just 5 of 19 free throws, marking its third fewest of the season.
CSC returns home this week, hosting New Mexico Highlands, Friday, and CSU-Pueblo, Saturday. The Cowboys currently at second in the RMAC.