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Skyhawks defense limits Eagles to 37% shooting in rout

FLC men down Northern New Mexico 96-61
Riley Farris of Fort Lewis College puts up a shot while playing University of the Southwest on Wednesday at FLC. On Sunday, Farris scored 20 points in just 21 minutes against Northern New Mexico College. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

The Fort Lewis College men’s basketball team, pigeonholed as an offensive juggernaut, put the finishing touches on a dominant defensive week on Sunday by limiting Northern New Mexico College to 37% shooting en route to a 96-61 rout on Nike N7 Night inside Whalen Gymnasium.

Sunday’s performance marked back-to-back games the Skyhawks (3-1 overall), who average 91 points per game on offense through four games, have held an opponent under 70 points. They also accomplished the feat Wednesday in an 85-64 win over the University of the Southwest.

“I thought our defensive energy, basically for 40 minutes, was suffocating,” said FLC head men’s basketball coach Bob Pietrack. “I thought our defense, the pressure and our rebounding, we didn't allow for them to have much hope in the ballgame. We’ve been taking a lot of pride in getting better, defensively. Offense comes a little more naturally for our team, but the message this week to the guys was, ‘We want to guard.’ We’ve kept two teams in the 60s this week, so that's a good step.”

Leading the way defensively for the Skyhawks was senior guard Corey Seng, who paced FLC with three steals. He also had six assists and tied for the team lead with six rebounds to go with his 12 points in 24 minutes.

Seng was nearly flawless on the defensive end, playing without a foul and holding his assignment, Eagles guard Jafari Mohammed, to two points and three turnovers.

Seng was one of four Skyhawks in double figures Sunday. Fellow senior Riley Farris tallied 20 points and six rebounds in just 21 minutes on 6-of-10 shooting. The 6-foot-9-inch forward out of Hutto, Texas, led the RMAC in scoring at 21.6 points per game in 2020-21 and averages 21.8 points per contest on 64% shooting through FLC’s first four games this winter.

Farris scored 17 of his 20 points in the first half, helping FLC create a 51-30 gap by halftime.

Sophomore guard Akuel Kot poured in 17 points off the bench and added five rebounds. Redshirt junior forward Brenden Boatwright was the fourth Skyhawk in double figures with 12 points, six rebounds and three assists in 22 minutes.

Wittman provided seven points and six rebounds, while junior guard Dunnell Stafford chipped in six points and two steals atop the FLC defense.

Getting his first extended run, redshirt freshman Ra'Shjon Martinez provided the cherry on top as he set career highs in minutes played (9), points (8) and rebounds (2) on an efficient 3-of-4 shooting.

Fort Lewis is scheduled to finish its nonconference schedule against a pair of Great Northwest Athletic Conference opponents this week in Western Oregon (5:30 p.m. Friday) and Central Washington (5 p.m. Saturday) before opening up RMAC action Dec. 3 on the road against Chadron State College.

“Our program understands how the big the weekend is. All these regional Division II games are critical, and we play two really good opponents from the GNAC, which is a great basketball league,” Pietrack said. “We're excited to get (to Salt Lake) and play those games. We understand how much they mean. We like where our team is and understand that we just need to keep moving forward. We have one more week to try and improve before we go to Chadron State and open RMAC play.”