EDUARDO MIRANDA NEWS-SUN
January 18, 2019
EDUARDO MIRANDA/NEWS-SUN New Mexico Junior College's Malik Mooving goes up in between to defenders for a tough layup in the first half in Caster Arena. The Thunderbirds trailed at the half 22-16 to Clarendon College.
The New Mexico Junior College men's basketball team had a game it wishes it could forget Thursday night in Caster Activity Center as the Thunderbirds lost to Clarendon College 53-41. NMJC's 41 points were a season low for the T-Birds.
The T-Birds came out and struggled offensively.
New Mexico Junior College shot just 20.7 percent from the field and missed all 12 three-point attempts in the first half. The only thing the T-Birds could say was positive on the offensive end, was that they shot 66.7 percent from the free throw line and its defense kept them close at the half.
The Thunderbirds offensively lacked player movement and any idea on how to attack the zone of the Bulldogs defense. The ball stayed on the perimeter looking for any open shot from the three-point line. This made the Bulldogs defensive night easy they forced five shot clock violations.
When the T-Birds looked to attack the paint, they had some success. They were able to either hit a few layups or get to the free throw line, where they got only four points.
The defense in the first half for NMJC did a decent job of making Clarendon work hard for its 22 points. The rotation of the T-Birds limited the Bulldogs to 39.1 percent from the field. The big difference the Bulldogs hit from the trey going 30 percent in the half.
The T-birds went into the half down 22-16.
"We have to play more efficient in the half court and not settle," NMJC head coach Luke Adams said of his team's performance. "I think we settled early in the game for shots we shouldn't have taken."
For a team looking to snap a losing run, the Thunderbirds came out cold and played like a team that forgot there was another half to play.
The T-birds went 9 minutes and 23 seconds without a basket during a 15-0 run for the Bulldogs. That saw Clarendon's lead balloon up to 20 points. The T-Birds could not buy a basket in the early part of the second half.
New Mexico Junior College missed open shots from the perimeter, in the paint, and worse layups. The Thunderbirds began to play individualistic as players tried to shoulder the offense on their own. The Bulldogs defense forced them into shooting 28.6 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from the three-point line in the half.
Just as the game looked to be an easy win Clarendon College, the Thunderbirds decided to make the final eight minutes exciting.
The T-Birds' offense began to find a rhythm and the ball began to fall through the cylinder. The team began to attack the lane and get to the free throw line. That led Clarendon defenders to collapse in the lane while opening up perimeter shots for the T-Birds.
The bigs of the T-Birds began to attack the board and the offensive rebounds led to second chance opportunities. NMJC scored 10 points off second chance opportunities and that brought the NMJC crowd to life.
The defense of the T-Birds came to life in that run and it gave them a chance to cut a big deficit to nine points. That was the closest NMJC got to the Bulldogs.
In the final two minutes the Bulldogs took, as much time off the clock when they had possession and the T-birds could not get a basket to fall when fouled.
Clarendon defeated New Mexico Junior College 53-41 in an ugly game for both teams.
"We have to become the nastiest team the way we play," Adams said. "We have to be the first on the floor and the toughest."
The Thunderbirds fall to 13-6 overall and 2-3 in Western Junior College Athletic Conference action with the loss. They travel to Frank Phillips College on Monday for 7:30 p.m. (CST) tip off.