A sizzling first half by freshman guard Cougar Downing kept NCCC men’s basketball within arm’s length of No. 4 Coffeyville on Thursday night at Panther Gymnasium. But a strong defensive effort, a fresh bench, and hot shooting by one of the top players in the country pulled the Red Ravens away for a 95-66 win over the Panthers – Coffeyville’s second win over Neosho in two weeks.
Downing, who had a career-high six 3s in the first half, finished with 22 points and four steals. No one else was in double figures: sophomore big Daniel Titus had eight and five rebounds; freshman guard Quentin Asberry put up seven points and a block; freshman guard Tremaine Chesley had six points, three assists and eight boards; sophomore guard Magic Reliford registered five points and three dimes; and freshman guard Deondre Buggage produced five points and three rebounds.
With Coffeyville dominating offensive boards – CCC had 20 offensive rebounds in the game including those from 6’10” big Blaise Keita and 6’5” guard Larry White, who both snatched down five – and one of the best guards in the nation in Coffeyville’s Tylor Perry continued his hot shooting with eight points and two 3s in the first half, Downing kept the Panthers afloat for a bit.
The son of NCCC’s all-time leading scorer seemed to be replicating his father’s skills by knocking down 3s from everywhere. His name was announced six times in the first half for 3-pointers as the Red Ravens tried to shut down another top player in the nation in Reliford, who didn’t score a field goal until around the 10:40 mark in the second half.
In the first game on March 15, Reliford scored 23 points and put up five 3s. But this time Coffeyville was contesting every Reliford shot and Downing saw his opportunity.
“I think that’s just how the game turned out. They were face-guarding Magic, (and) that gave me the opportunity to get the shots that I usually don’t get,” Downing said. “Magic is a good player so I assumed the rest of the team was going to do the same thing ... When Magic and Buggage drive, they have to help so much with them because you know how much they score inside the paint, so it’s easy for them to kick out (for) open 3s. ... My confidence definitely went up after you make two and three in a row and you keep playing. Eventually, you hope you hit more, and when you do, it’s even better, so the confidence is through the roof.”
NCCC head coach Jeremy Coombs said his team played at a rapid pace for Downing’s open 3s.
“We were getting downhill and playing pretty fast … and were able to find the open man, which he happened to be,” Coombs said. “He knocked down some tough jump shots, some deep ones, and some that were contested as well. But at the end of the day, it was just us getting paint touches and finding the open guy.”
Coffeyville found themselves open a bunch of times in transition off of missed NCCC baskets.
With the score at 39-34 at the break, the momentum started to swing in the second half when Buggage missed a transition layup in the middle of the paint, which led to Coffeyville freshman guard Markeith Browning scoring an and-one and a free throw, making the score 44-36 Coffeyville with 16:01 to go.
Several missed field goals by NCCC were precursors for Coffeyville to execute their transition production. And with NCCC’s zone defense being compromised with late rotations, Coffeyville got into a flow and Perry hit 3s just like he did a few weeks back. Perry on the day was 8 for 9 from downtown and scored a season-high 28 points.
Coffeyville head coach Jay Herkelman knew why Perry was able to get his opportunities.
“It’s just a point of emphasis for us – second-chance points,” he said. “We did a good job of rebounding. I didn’t think we did a good job of getting it in the basket in the first half. But we have good depth, we have good athletes. Blaise (10 points, 13 rebounds) gives a real presence on the inside. But Bostyn Holt (six points, 11 rebounds), Larry White (11 points, three steals and six rebounds), Hayden Brittingham (four points and five rebounds), those other forwards that come in there, they’re really good athletes and attack the boards. But that’s just a part of what we do every single day. We emphasize it.”
Coffeyville is known for its defense, as the Red Ravens are the No. 1 team in the KJCCC and the No. 3 team in the nation in defense. That led to outscoring NCCC 56-32 in the second half. NCCC shot 34 percent overall and 36 percent on 3, while Coffeyville shot 48 percent on 3s and 47 percent overall.
Chesley in the second half suffered a leg injury on a cut to the basket. He would eventually come out of the game and wouldn’t return. Asberry replaced him. Coombs said he hopes Chesley, one of the better playmakers on the team, will return for the next game.
The men (7-12, 5-12) will face Cloud (5-14, 3-14) on the road today at 4 pm. The women (4-15, 3-14) will follow versus Cloud (8-10, 7-10) at 6 pm.