Cougars host Casper Tuesday
The last time the Western Nebraska Community College and Casper College men's basketball teams played it was last March in the semifinals of the Region IX tournament where Casper came back to sting the Cougars 70-68.
Tuesday night, the two squads will hook up once again at Cougar Palace at 7 p.m. with that loss still on the minds of the Cougar faithful.
"It will be a classic battle between WNCC and Casper and it always makes for a good game and a big atmosphere," WNCC coach Russ Beck said. "We are still a little upset of how our season ended last year so we want to use that game as motivation and set the record for what could be a great season for Western Nebraska."
This year's contest will definitely be a battle of teams that have a lot of success going their way. The Cougars, despite posting a 3-3 record, have put up some numbers, averaging 83 points a game. Casper enters with a 7-2 record and is averaging 88 points a game.
Beck said that he has watched Casper several times this season and has a handle on their tendencies.
"We played Casper out in the Jamboree and I have watched them play three or four games now and I think we are familiar with the kind of team they are," he said. "They are a team that does not run a lot of offensive sets; they rely on ball penetration, kick outs, and their athleticism. They have a really quick point guard that is a transfer from South Plains [Corey Spence]. We need to protect the paint to disallow that initial penetration. The key will be rebounding and turnovers."
The two squads definitely are equal on the court and one needs to go back to the Region 18/9 Shootout on Nov. 16-17 where Casper and WNCC split contests against the College of Southern Idaho and Salt Lake Community College.
WNCC fell to College of Southern Idaho on Friday 68-67 before coming back to drop Salt Lake Community College 82-76. In the Salt Lake win, the Cougars trailed 37-30 at halftime and then scored 52 second-half points to pick up the big win. Against CSI, the Cougars held a one-point, 35-34, lead.
Casper flip-flopped results against CSI and Salt Lake. The Thunderbirds dropped Southern Idaho 81-76 a day after falling to Salt Lake Community College 84-76. Against CSI, the Thunderbirds had four players finish with double-doubles, led by Remi Dibo with 18 points followed by 15 points each from Jonathan Blythers, Richard Smith, and Spence.
Beck said they played well that weekend.
"We played a good game against CSI and ended up giving up one real late basket and lost by one. I felt like that was a game we should have won," he said. "We learned from some of our mistakes in that game and beat Salt Lake the next night. On Casper's side, they lost to Salt Lake but then really got emotionally charged up and beat CSI, who just beat No. 4 Indian Hills at their place [over Thanksgiving]. I kind of like where we are at. I think we can play with anybody. We are our biggest enemies at times and we are the only team that can beat us."
WNCC is coming off a big win against Western Wyoming a week ago 96-81. WNCC freshman Willie Mangum had the hot hand scoring 30 points. Red-shirt freshman Cody Johnson finished with a double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds. Quante Cooley, another freshman, tallied 12 points in the win.
Casper enters the contest on a five-game winning streak after going 3-0 in their Thanksgiving Classic, defeating Rahleighs' Finest Sports Academy 123-76, Cloud County 87-60, and Lamar Community College 79-65.
Beck said both teams have plenty of talent.
"Casper and us probably have the most height in the region and both teams match up with each other pretty well," he said. "We just need to keep our tempo and do what we do and be solid defensively."
Beck said his team has plenty of offensive weapons and what they need to worry about in the team's second home contest of the season is worrying about their game.
"We are getting better at moving the ball and we have quite a few shooters on this team," he said. "Last year we had a couple shooters and this year we have maybe four, five or six guys that can shoot the basketball when given an open look. I think the big thing for us is execution and ball movement in making the extra pass. "
After Tuesday's contest, the Cougars will hit the road to compete in the Sheridan College Holiday Classic this weekend. The Cougar's next home game will be Dec. 7 when they host Northwest Kansas Technical College.
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