EDUARDO MIRANDA NEWS-SUN
November 2, 2018
Thunderbirds' Darnell Rogers goes past his defender for a layup in their 77-53 win over Trinidad State Junior College. NMJC plays USW JV squad Friday night in their second game in the Estacado FCU-Thunderbird Classic.
The New Mexico Junior College men's basketball team opened the 2018-19 season playing Trinidad Junior College in the New Mexico Estacado Classic. The game was not only a first for the entire roster, but also the coaching staff.
In the first half, the Thunderbirds came out with a lot of excitement ready to show what type of
squad they are. As a new squad that has no actual game time playing together the Thunderbirds
showed a unified squad.
The Thunderbirds started the game with an up-tempo squad looking to catch the Trojans defense off balance. The up-tempo offense caught the Trojans off guard and led to 18-0 start with the Thunderbirds scoring in the paint and from beyond the arc. The offense used a lot of backdoor screens to open up shots for Ryan Murphy, who led the team in scoring at the half with 12 points. The use of three guards, Murphy, Darnell Rogers, and Najja Hunter, allows them to attack the paint with dribbles drives and make accurate passes in traffic to open shooters or Deion Rhea in the post.
On the defensive side, the Thunderbirds used a 3-2 zone based on their speed to counter their lack of size against the Trojans. The speed of the Thunderbirds really hurt the Trojans who could not find openings to attack the lane or open shots. The T-Birds quickness on defensive switches held the Trojans score less until the 13:03 was left in the half. They utilized the full court press and half court trap to slow down the Trojans offense and force them to attack late in the shot clock.
The Thunderbirds did hit a rough patch in the first half where the Trojans were able to make run and get back in the game. The up-tempo play of the T-Birds caused them to show some fatigue in the final 10 minutes were they struggled to create on the offensive end. Give credit to Thunderbirds head coach for not panicking and showing confident in his players, as they were able to right the ship and go into halftime with a 38-22 lead.
In the second half the Thunderbirds slowed their offensive pace looking to take time off the clock. They continued to get into the paint causing the Trojans defense to collapse on Rogers, Murphy, Hunter, or Malik Mooving. The Thunderbirds guards showed great decision-making in either finishing at the rim or passing to open teammate.
Their defense in the second half continued to keep the Trojans offense on their toes. They quickly jumped into passing lanes getting steals or poking the ball out of bounds. When the Trojans shot the ball, the Thunderbirds showed what team rebounding should look like. Each player boxed out the closest opponent and three red shirts were always under the basket ready to go up and grab the ball.
"When we were on the same page, they are fun to watch," said Thunderbirds head coach Luke Adams on their performance. They held the Trojans to 53 points, 38 percent shooting, 13 percent from behind the arc, and never let the Trojans tie the game or take the lead but they allowed 32 points in the paint their only negative mark on a successful night.
Adams was happy with the win but pointed out there is still room for the team to grow. "We had moments were we looked really, really good and then we had moments were it was really frustrating," said Adams. "It all really comes back to being fatigued and lack of focus and not really rotating."
With his first win as a head coach, and the team starting off with a win, Adams and the Thunderbirds will look to improve in their next game tonight as NMJC plays USW's JV squad.
1 2 F NMJC 38 39 77 Trinidad St. 22 31 53
TONIGHT NMJC vs. USW JV 8 p.m.