New Mexico Junior College guard Darnell Rogers finds space in-between two defenders. The Thunderbirds defeated Howard College in conference play.
The New Mexico Junior College men's basketball team hosted Howard College in its first Western Junior College Athletic Conference game of the season. Thunderbirds returned home on a one game-winning streak. At the end of the night they had a two game winning streak with a 67-61 win over Howard College.
The first half of the game saw the Thunderbirds defense hold Howard College to 32.3 percent from the field and 35.7percent from the three-point line. The Thunderbirds offense shot 39.3 percent from the field but only 18.2 percent from the three-point line.
The Thunderbirds offense saw plenty of success in the paint scoring 18 points in the half. The Thunderbirds defense held Howard College offense allowing them to build a 12-point lead. Howard College showed it was not going without a fight and trimmed the lead to 29-26 at the half.
Going into the half NMJC had a strong performance erased in the final three minutes. For Thunderbird head coach Luke Adams he felt his team had lost focused against a quality opponent.
"We kind of knew from the very beginning that this is a very well coached team, they are very tough," said Adams.
The second half became a back and forth physical game. NMJC and Howard College both came out looking to attack and control the tempo of the game. NMJC saw Howard College build a five-point lead in the beginning of the second half. The Thunderbirds then showed their character in being able to drop the lead to one point at 41-40, before regaining the lead. Howard College never regained the lead after losing it.
As the game went down the wire, NMJC held onto a four-point lead. Every time the Thunderbirds tried to add onto the lead, Howard College found a way to get close. The Thunderbirds were never able to build a five point or more lead against Howard College until the final whistle when it became desperate and forced into fouling. NMJC was able to hit clutch free throws at the end of the game to win 67-61.
The Thunderbirds held Howard College to 34.4 percent from the field and 32 percent from behind the arc. The Thunderbirds forced eight turnovers from Howard College. The thunderbirds shot 42 percent from the field but only 25 percent from behind the arc.
"Very proud of them for staying the course," said Adams on his team's performance. "For weathering the storm and keeping the one possession."
Adams was proud of his players for showing their character in a slow grinding game. He told his players that these games happen and they need to be ready as the next stage will be tougher.
The win improves NMJC to 9-1 overall and 1-0 in conference play. Next up for the Thunderbirds is a home game against Northern New Mexico on Friday and New Mexico Military Institute on Saturday.