The Eastern Wyoming College men’s basketball team buried 17-of-25 free throws compared to just six for Western Nebraska Community College as the Lancer men snuck out of Cougar Palace with a hard-fought 83-81 win that came down to the final seconds.
EWC coach Tom Andersen said it was a heck of a game and they were lucky to get the win.
“It was a great game. Both teams played well,” Andersen said. “It was a great rivalry game and we were fortunate to come out at the end when the clock ran out. Give a lot of credit to both teams that really played hard, played well and both teams kept their composure and did a nice job.”
It was a contest that it seemed as if these two teams were going to end up with an overtime game as both teams were hitting big shots at the end.
“It looked like it could have been overtime and it was close,” Andersen said. “We missed a couple free throws and they missed a couple and then they banked in that three that was big. It was just a great game. You can’t take anything away from both teams. We are just fortunate to come out on top.”
WNCC coach Billy Engel said his team played as hard as they could, but just didn’t get shots when they needed in falling to 3-4 on the season.
“More than anything, we didn’t play with enough heart tonight,” Engel said. “We put ourselves in bad situations over and over again and when you do that with a couple of questionable calls, it seems worse.”
Both teams shot well as EWC made 54% while WNCC shot 46%. The difference was 3-point shooting where the Cougars buried 13 treys as Daniel Bula buried five treys compared to just four for the Lancers.
Free throw shooting was different as it was an 11-point difference with the Lancers getting 17 made on 25 attempts compared to just 11 attempts for the Cougars.
Engel said they just needed one more of those treys to fall.
“When EWC packs it in the paint and they don’t pick us up defensively until we are two or three feet in front of the 3-point line, we are big enough to shoot it when we are open. We have to shoot with confidence.”
Rebounding was the difference as the Lancers out-rebounded the Cougars 39-30 with the Lancers pulling down 30 defensive rebounds. Seal Osajivbe led the Lancers with 13 boards, 10 of which came on the defensive end.
“Looking back, the offensive glass is what killed us,” Engel said. “They just walked themselves to the paint and got easy lay-ups over and over again. We also got beat on the free throw line tonight.”
WNCC started the contest well as they ran out to a 7-0 lead after Biko Johnson buried a 3-pointer and led 9-2 on a Carl Thorpe dunk. That was when the Lancers stepped on the gas pedal as they went on a 14-0 run to lead 16-9 behind buckets from John Barbee and Marko Krtinic.
EWC led 22-18 and later 30-26 before the Cougars came back to take a 34-31 lead on a Rodney Sawyer bucket. EWC bounced back to lead 38-34 after a trey from Atte Vuoristo and led 42-35 at intermission.
The second half saw EWC lead 51-45 before the Cougars retook the lead at 65-63 on a Enzo Clouvel-Urie bucket. It was short-lived as EWC hit 5-of-6 free throws and led 70-65 with 6:-04 to play. The Lancers kept playing strong defense as they led 79-72 on a Vuoristo trey.
WNCC kept fighting as Bula nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to bring the Cougars to 80-78 with 42.2 seconds to play. Krtinic hit a bucket to make it 82-78 but Clouvel-Urie made a shot with 11.5 seconds to bring the Cougars to 82-80.
WNCC fouled Vuoristo and he made one free throw with 10.1 seconds for an 83-80. After a timeout, Andersen told his players to foul quickly to avoid a tying shot and Clouvel-Urie made one of two free throws with 8.7 seconds.
The Cougars then played tough defense and almost got two steals, but the ball was awarded to EWC both times. WNCC got the ball back with about four seconds to play and a last second shot wasn’t good as the Lancers snuck out with a win.
EWC had four players in double figures as Kritinic had 24 points with nine rebounds. Barbee had 16 points and was 8-of-12 from the charity stripe while Vuoristo had 15 points. Osajivbe had 12 points and 13 rebounds.
WNCC had five in double figures. Thorpe had 16 points with nine rebounds while Bula had 15 points, all from beyond the arc. Sawyer tallied 12 points, while CJ and Biko Johnson each had 11 points. Clouvel-Urie finished with 10 assists while Biko Johnson had seven assists.
EWC (4-6) 42 41 – 83
WNCC (3-4) 35 46 – 81
Marko Krtinic 24, John Barbee 16, Atte Vuoristo 15, Seal Osajivbe 12, Micah Glover 6, Gad Tshishimbi Biseba 4, Ryan Swan 4, Malik Frederick 2.
Carl Thorpe 16, Daniel Bula 15, Rodney Sawyer 12, CJ Johnson 11, Biko Johnson 11, Dimitrije Nikolic 6, Enzo Clouvel-Urie 5, Maurice Walker 3, Stephen Ovia 2.