It was a tale of two halves for Neosho County Community College versus Butler Community College Wednesday night at Panther Gymnasium. But ultimately the Grizzlies’ efficient shooting and sheer will in the second half separated the junior college squads in a 100-67 decision.
Sophomore Jae-Min Yang had a team-high 21 points and three steals, while sophomore James Taylor scored 11. Freshmen Jadis White and Corbett Kimberlin added nine apiece.
NCCC kept the game relatively tight in the first half thanks to White’s seven points and Kimberlin’s six points off of two 3s. Taylor and Yang put in five points apiece in the first half.
But what helped Butler in the first half was freshman Marque English’s 12 points, including two 3s, as well as freshman Javaunte Hawkins’ nine points and freshman Shawn Hopkins’ eight points. And these players helped shoot the ball at a 58-percent clip in the first half.
NCCC shot the ball at 42 percent, and when the team isn’t shooting the ball as well, combined with the opposition on the offensive end getting any kind of shot desirable, it makes for a bad formula, including being down 42-31 at the end of the first half.
But Butler is receiving votes to be nationally ranked, and this is the eighth time this year the team has blown out opponents by at least 25 points.
“We just didn’t play hard enough,” NCCC head coach Jeremy Coombs said. “Defensively, we gave up 58 points in the second half, we gave up 100 for the game. It wasn’t the game plan and we didn’t stick to it, and it just snowballed on us. We lost our fight and we lost our drive.”
The 58 points in the second half by Butler was due to shooting 65 percent from the field. Overall, Butler shot the ball at 62 percent, while NCCC shot at 38 percent in the game.
What helped Butler’s shooting cause was the guard play. Too many times, Hawkins dribbled exactly where he wanted to get an open look, and many times the perimeter play was fluid enough for open shots for both Hawkins and English. English finished with a game-high 22 points, while Hawkins had 21. Sophomore Juwan White, an All-Conference player from a year ago, scored 12 points.
“I don’t think we handled their zone defense well in the first half, and that kind of prevented us from going on a run,” Butler head coach Kyle Fisher said. “We guarded them pretty well. They hit some tough shots. They hit five 3s in the first half and at least three of those were tough, guarded shots late in the clock that you can’t do much about. We adjusted our zone defense and started getting rhythm in the second half. That allowed us to get better clean shots. And then our defensive intensity went up another level and that created a lot of transition baskets, which at times can be demoralizing.”
The Panthers (10-16, 5-11) are set to play Coffeyville (20-8, 12-6) at 7:30 pm Saturday on the road.