Offensive execution hurts T-Birds down the stretch in 80-64 loss to Butler

Cloud County redshirt freshman Nysir Scott finished with 11 points in Thursday's 80-64 loss to Butler
Cloud County redshirt freshman Nysir Scott finished with 11 points in Thursday's 80-64 loss to Butler

CONCORDIA, Kansas — Great first-half shooting ended up being a deterrent in Thursday's 80-64 loss for the Cloud County Community College men's basketball team to the visiting Butler Community College Grizzlies.

Cloud County (12-13 overall, 6-9 KJCCC) shot a blistering 47 percent (7-of-15) from beyond the arc in the first half, trailing 37-36 at the break. The hot start led to settling too much for the outside shot over the final 20 minutes, though, as the T-Birds went 4-of-14 (27 percent) from deep in the second half and finished the game 22-of-65 (34 percent) from the field with 11 made 3-pointers and 11 made two-point baskets.

"We probably weren't getting great shots in the first half. We were just hitting some," said Cloud County assistant coach Todd Johnston, who manned the sidelines Thursday in the one-game absence of head coach Jordan Altman. "We talked about it at halftime to not settle for 3-pointers, not settling for one-pass shots and we took way too many of those. We lacked getting to the rim and to the free-throw line and that hurt us late."

The T-Birds built their biggest lead of the game at 18:39 in the second half at 41-37 on a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Brayden Day; one of three Cloud County players in double-figures with 10 points.

Butler (14-10 overall, 7-8 KJCCC) responded with a 15-5 run over the next 5:11 to take a 52-46 lead. It was a lead the Grizzlies would not relinquish as the T-Birds were unable to inch any closer than three points the rest of the way.

The Grizzlies were able to maintain its lead in large part to the disparity with points in the paint, a 44-18 advantage for Butler, and a 55-36 margin in rebounding despite a solid evening from Cloud County freshman Edoardo Del Cadia with seven points and team-high nine rebounds.

"You can always count on Edoardo leading the charge in the rebounding. That's something he does so well," Johnston said. "We just didn't have enough guys helping him. We got outrebounded 55-36, so there were guards not coming and we had bigs struggling to box guys out and battle down there."

Cloud County was able to keep its turnover number in check, committing just 14 on the night; two below its season average of 16.3. The ones the T-Birds did commit were costly, however, as Butler also finished with a 17-5 lead in points off turnovers despite committing 12 of its own.

"It seemed like if we did get a turnover, we turned it right back over to them before we got to the rim," Johnston said. "Fourteen turnovers, you'd like to have that number down a bit. But it always makes it worse when they are non-aggressive turnovers and the defense just picks your pocket."

Cloud County battled depth issues Thursday as well, playing without sophomores Jacob Shields and Sidy Sissoko, as well as with a limited Alvin Thompson, who leads the T-Birds in scoring at 16.5 points per game.

Thompson gave it a go Thursday, finishing with two points in 11 minutes as he tries to fully work his way back.

In his absence, redshirt freshman Nysir Scott, sophomore Adetomi Ayilara and Day shouldered the scoring load as Scott and Ayilara finished with 11 points each and Day added 10 points.

Freshman forward Iyen Enaruna and sophomore guard Jerome Kidd Jr. added nine points and eight points, respectively.

"Alvin hadn't practiced the last week or so and we tried to ease him in a little bit yesterday," Johnston said. "I wasn't comfortable enough to put him in the game and run him 25-30 minutes like he usually gets, but those other guys stepped up and made plays…We probably just didn't have enough bench to stay in it late as far as scoring."

While the offense struggled to gain traction, the T-Birds' effort defensively was solid on Thursday as they limited Butler to 40 percent shooting (29-of-73) and finished with a season-high 11 blocks, led by Enaruna with three.

"Part of (the block shots) was because Butler does such a good job getting to the rim. That's kind of their M.O.," Johnston said. "They have some really good guards who can put it on the floor., put their head down and go. Our game plan going in was to pack it in and our bigs did a really good job jumping straight up and down and getting hands on some shots. All those blocks were at the rim, we had great help and defense kept us in the game until late."

Cloud County will look to bounce back Saturday when it heads on the road for arguably its toughest matchup away from Arley Bryant Gymnasium this season; a 4 p.m. tip-off against No. 3 ranked Coffeyville.

"We have to slow (the pace) down a little bit. There's not many teams in the country that can run and be as athletic and fast as Coffeyville is," Johnston said. "We're going to have to execute a lot better. I was telling the guys that after the game. Some of the things that hurt us tonight will definitely hurt us Saturday if we take that approach of early shots and not very good ball movement. You can't do that against Coffeyville."