Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
It took awhile for the engine to warm up on this chilly November evening.
But after revving it a few times and squealing the tires a bit, Fort Lewis College sped right through Northern New Mexico’s road block.
The FLC men’s basketball team forced 26 turnovers, held the Eagles without a field goal for the first 10 minutes, 4 seconds of the game, then simply rolled from there to an 83-52 victory in its home and regular-season opener Thursday at Whalen Gymnasium.
Skyhawks head coach Bob Hofman had little negative to say about the performance, one in which all 14 players in uniform saw time. Eight players made their Whalen Gym debuts for FLC (1-0), including Nick Tomsick, who led all scorers with 17 points.
Cade Kloster and Jared Smith caught Hofman’s eye as each scored nine points, and Hofman admitted he’ll have some tough decisions to make regarding playing time as he looks to whittle his rotation down to a more manageable size.
“Every player improved himself (Thursday),” Hofman said. “Every day we have to start making more difficult decisions about playing time.”
FLC took three minutes to find the basket to open the game, but the Skyhawks exploded from there, going on a 19-0 run in the first half to grab a 19-1 lead, powered on the run by eight of Mike Matthews’ 16 points. Defense did the trick in that run and for most of the game, as the Eagles (3-5) shot just 25 percent in the first half and committed 26 turnovers in the game.
Guys who didn’t have huge scoring nights still managed to make an impact in other areas. Ignacio High School product Alex Herrera had a respectable seven points, but he muscled his way to 10 rebounds, while fellow center Torrey Udall had seven points and six boards – five on the offensive glass – as the Skyhawks held a 44-32 rebounding advantage.
Starting point guard Matt Mazarei didn’t find his way on the scoresheet, but he dished out nine assists, while Shane Jensen and Lucas Archuleta chipped in seven points each.
“We have a lot of good guys. We’ve got ‘Chief’ (Herrera) taking over the post, and we’ve got Torrey, also a great post. We’ve got a bunch of new guards, a lot of transfers, great players, and we’re a good scoring team,” Matthews said. “And I think it’ll be consistent throughout the season.”
FLC shot the ball well, connecting at a 47-percent clip and made 11 of 30 from 3, a slightly high but acceptable number of attempts from distance in Hofman’s estimation.
Eagles’ head coach Ryan Cordova, a former FLC assistant, picked up a technical foul after taking umbrage with what became a 23-14 disparity in fouls.
FLC and Northern N.M., an NAIA program, will meet again Nov. 24 in Grand Junction, but first, the Skyhawks will take a step up in competition, facing Dixie State next Friday, also in Grand Junction. Dixie State is receiving votes in the NABC Coaches Poll.
“We’re still trying to get some chemistry going with the new guys, and I think we did a good job of that (Thursday),” Matthews said.