Oh, how so much can change in 40 minutes.
In the first half of Fort Lewis’ matchup against Northern New Mexico Monday night at Whalen Gymnasium, the Skyhawks looked fantastic. The ball was flying all over the floor on offense, and the open man was getting the shot. Fort Lewis forced turnovers and pushed the pace, building a 25-point lead at halftime.
But turnovers on the offensive end, paired with defensive lapses, made the Skyhawks work to finish off the Eagles, 75-62.
Fort Lewis improved to 4-1 overall, while Northern New Mexico fell to 0-7.
“I’m happy with the first half, our energy in the first half was excellent, we got control of the game,” Skyhawks coach Bob Pietrack said. “I’m just grossly disappointed with the second half on all levels.”
Fort Lewis shot 42% from the field and 28% from 3-point range.
Junior guard Obi Agbim once again led the Skyhawks in scoring with 15 points on 5 of 8 shooting overall and 1 of 4 from downtown. Junior guard Samier Kinsler had 11 points on 4 of 12 shooting overall and 1 of 6 from 3-point range off the bench.
Redshirt sophomore Amondo Miller Jr. and junior Tristan Hurdle had very efficient nights off the bench. Miller had a season-high 11 points on 4 of 8 shooting from the field and 2 of 4 from beyond the arc in 14 minutes. Hurdle had 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting from the field and 2 of 4 from 3-point range in 13 minutes.
“I’m really happy with both of our sophomores, both Tristan and Mondo,” Pietrack said. “Not only are they good RMAC players, they both were battling injuries in the preseason. Tristan is coming off back surgery, having missed last year, he had to sit out a good portion of the preseason. Then Miller had a severe ankle sprain about mid-October and it wasn’t until after this Thanksgiving break that he’s been at full speed. Both of those guys will help us.”
Northern New Mexico shot 44% from the field and 25% from 3-point range. Malek Malual led the Eagles with 20 points on 8 of 13 shooting.
Fort Lewis came out of the gates flying, up 13-2 five minutes in. The Skyhawks found holes in Northern New Mexico’s zone defense and really pushed the pace.
Hurdle had all 10 of his points in the first half, and Fort Lewis dominated inside in the first half behind the play of senior Sekou Dembele and junior Brayden Carter.
The first half ended in style for the Skyhawks, with Miller throwing a touchdown pass right into the hands of Kinsler as Kinsler laid the ball in before time expired.
The Skyhawks led 51-26 at half after shooting 50% from the field and 43% from downtown in the first half.
In the second half, nothing went right for Fort Lewis.
The offense was a jumbled-up mess, with players turning the ball over and missing open looks.
Northern New Mexico found space inside and converted before it started hitting shots from outside.
A 65-42 Fort Lewis lead with 9:42 left quickly shrunk to 69-58 with 4:07 left. Layups by Carter and Miller finished off the scoring in a poor half for the Skyhawks.
“That was a pathetic half of college basketball,” Pietrack said. “We had 14 second-half turnovers, couldn’t finish a shot, running in there, not playing off two feet.”
Fort Lewis will open Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play at Western Colorado University on Saturday, starting at 5 p.m.
“I can tell you this: We’re not going to be playing 10 guys these types of minutes come Saturday night,” Pietrack said. “If you don’t play good, you can come sit next to me and coach Ty. If the guys play good, they’ll get to stay in the game.”