In the previous two games, the Fort Lewis men’s basketball team has struggled in the second half with turnovers and stagnant offensive play.
That was not the case in Saturday’s Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference opener, as the Skyhawks outscored Western Colorado 39-25 in the second half en route to an 85-55 win at Paul Wright Gym in Gunnison.
Fort Lewis has won five straight games after their opening loss to Angelo State. FLC improved to 5-1 overall (1-0 in RMAC play), while Western Colorado fell to 3-5 overall (1-1 in the RMAC).
“It was a really good defensive effort and it was really good for us to turn them over 21 times,” Fort Lewis coach Bob Pietrack said. “We played with great intensity for two halves this time because we didn't do two halves on Monday. Our team grew a little bit. Bench points were outstanding and points in the paint were outstanding. We really controlled the game after the first four minutes.”
Fort Lewis shot 52% from the field and 33% from behind the 3-point line. Western Colorado shot 41.3% overall, despite shooting 60% from deep. Free throws were an issue for the Mountaineers, as they only shot 46% from the charity stripe.
Junior forward Brayden Carter led the Skyhawks with 16 points on 8 of 10 shooting and had six rebounds off the bench. Junior guard Tristan Hurdle had another strong shooting game as he finished with 14 points on 4 of 8 shooting overall, including 3 of 5 from downtown.
Junior guard Samier Kinsler and senior guard Malik Whitaker each had 12 points.
“When he goes in there we run a lot of things for him and he's very dominant on the ball,” Pietrack said about Carter. “When he catches it in a good place, he can go right. he can go left and we make a point of trying to get it to him. That’s his big role right now. He's an offensive weapon at all times.”
Amar Rivers was Western Colorado’s leading scorer with nine points on 3 of 3 shooting from beyond the arc.
Despite Hurdle shooting well from outside, Fort Lewis continues to struggle in that area. The rest of the team shot 5 of 19 from 3-point range.
Kinsler and junior guard Obi Agbim have taken the most 3-pointers this year, but are only shooting 19% and 22%, respectively, through six games.
“There’s nothing schematically that we're going to change. We're just going to do what we do offensively; we get good looks,” Pietrack said. “The guys that haven't made will make, and the guys that have made will keep making. It's not something that I'm losing my sleep over.”
The Skyhawks return to Whalen Gymnasium to host Adams State Tuesday, starting at 7 p.m.