The Central Christian College men's basketball team pushed their current win streak out to five games with an 80-68 victory over the Johnson & Wales University Wildcats at home Friday night.
The Tigers jumped out to quick 18-6 lead at the 11:57 mark of the first half, but then a rash of turnovers (six in eight possessions) allowed the Wildcats back in the game.
The Tigers' 12 point lead was down to just two, with 6:23 left to play in the half. From there, the Tigers settled things down and outscored the Wildcats 15-10 down the stretch, and took a 38-31 lead into the halftime intermission. There was a scary moment for the Tiger faithful late in the first half, as Michael Gholston went after a loose ball on the sideline, and went flying into the bleachers. He remained down on the floor for a couple of minutes, but was able to walk back to the bench under his own power.
In the second half, the Tigers started raining 3-pointers. Gholston shook off the fall he took in the first half, and knocked down four triples. Ernest Burton knocked down a pair, and Daniel Nwosuh hit one from about 28 feet. In all, the Tigers were 7 of 12 from behind the arc in the second half, allowing them to extend their lead back out to double digits.
Midway through the half, the Tigers went on a 17-3 run to open up a 21 point lead. The Tigers were seemingly in control, and head coach Tony Romero would have liked to see his guys hold that lead. Unfortunately, some empty possessions and a couple of turnovers allowed the Wildcats to creep back into the game. They closed the game on a 17-8 run and what should have been a more impressive 20 point victory, turned instead into a 12 point win, 80-68. When you play in a conference where you don't see every team, and you are relying on a group of iindividuals to rank teams, it's important to impress when possible.
Sam Clayborn, who has had a rough stretch of games offensively, bounced back tonight to lead the Tigers with 19 points. He was joined in double figures by a trio Tigers that included Jubril Osagie with 17, Gholston with 16, and Nwosuh with 15. Kendric Warren, who set a new CCC NAIA era blocks record in the win over KWU last week, had another block tonight to go along with nine rebounds.
"Very good start out the gate then we got sloppy,” Romero said. “There was a stretch there in the middle 10 minutes of the first half where we lost our composure and were very careless with the basketball. I told the guys at half if we just take care of the ball we were getting the looks we wanted and converting at a high percentage. The second half, we settled down and only turned it over three times. Defensively, I thought we did a great job defending their ball screen actions and forcing tough shots. Winning our first conference game and holding serve at home is important. Short turn around and we get to battle a very physical and scrappy Northern New Mexico team. "
With the win, the Tigers are now 13-5 on the season and 2-0 in the A.I.I. They will get a tough test Saturday night when they host the Northern New Mexico College Eagles. Tipoff between the two teams is scheduled for 6 p.m