Cougars start weekend tourney tonight against top ten team

The Western Nebraska Community College men's basketball team will look to keep its undefeated record going this weekend when they host the WNCC Classic this weekend.

To accomplish that feat, however, the Cougars will have a tall order as they will battle No. 9 ranked South Plains College, a team that features a rich tradition of playing at the national tournament.

The match-up between the two undefeated teams will take place Friday at 7:30 p.m. The first game on the night will have Central Wyoming College facing Rawleigh's Finest Academy at 5:30.

WNCC coach Russ Beck said there should be some exciting basketball at Cougar Palace this weekend.

"Everybody talks about bringing good teams in here and we have a good team coming in this weekend," Beck said. "We are hoping the community comes out and gets behind us and support us and push us to a win because it is going to take a little bit everything we can get."

The South Plains contest should be a barometer of where his team is compared to a talented South Plains squad. In fact, the Cougars will play three of their next four games against ranked teams.

"You want to play your best and that is where you measure yourself in in competing for a regional title and a berth at the national tournament," Beck said. "We will have to beat quality teams that are looking to get there themselves. Early on this is a good opportunity for us because if we come out and play our game and style of basketball, we can earn some respect."

WNCC (2-0) into the contest after capturing two wins last weekend, defeating Ft. Collins Allstars 92-83 and then Oglala Lakota College 101-35. South Plains also opened the season on a roll, defeating McMurry University 117-50, Paris Junior College 79-75, and Carl Albert State College 92-73.

"We know what we need to work on and we need to treat this situation like we are coming off a loss," Beck said. "We need to be really hungry and play like there is no tomorrow. We can't worry about Saturday's game; our week has been about investing in preparing for South Plains. We have to come out and keep them off the glass and take our own opportunities and put the ball in the hoop."

The two squads meet last year and South Plains caught the Cougars when they were riddled with injuries, winning 102-49. Beck said that game is behind them and this is a new team.

"I don't think last year they were 50 points better than us, but we were really banged up with Sebastian [Suarez] with two broken wrists and Tahir [Lilttle] with a separated shoulder," Beck said. "We didn't have a week to prepare for them like we do this time around. We have been preparing for them all week and I think we are where mentally and physically where we need to be. We are healthy. We just have to come out and be tough."

South Plains features a roster that is very similar to WNCC's. The big thing Beck noticed about their team is the athleticism of the players. A big key will be keeping them off the boards.

"From watching them, 50 percent of their offense comes from defensive rebounds and they are really athletic," Beck said. "Probably at every position they are an inch or two taller and they can jump higher than every single one of us. So, we will have to do some basic things and defensively we will have to contest every shot, and definitely box out."

The Texans are led by six players that are averaging double figure scoring. Ryan Martin, 6-foot-8 sophomore from London, leads the team with a 23 point game average followed by Cedrick McAfee, a 6-8 sophomore from Memphis, Tenn, at 18. The Texans also have Andrew Spight, a 6-2 guard from Burbank, Calif, at 15, Billydee Williams, 6-5 forward from Orlando, Fla., at 13.3, and Roderick Lawrence, 6-4 guard from Orlando, Fla., and Brandon Neel, 6-4 guard from Cincinnati, Ohio, at 10.7 points a game.

The Cougars have plenty of firepower to stay with South Plains with several players capable of pouring in points. Against Ft. Collins All-stars, Peter Dewtang led the team with 25 points, including five 3-pointers. Derrick Bowers followed the next night with a 22 point explosion in a win against Oglala Lakota.

The Cougars are led by Dewtang, who is averaging 16.5 points a game followed by Bowers at 14.5 points. The Cougars have four other players at double figures in Diana Mitchell at 13 points, Youssoupha Kane at 12 points, and Brandon Morley and Joel Einfeldt at 10 points.

Beck said this year's team has plenty of depth.

"With this group I feel we will have six or seven guys averaging close to double figures," he said. "I don't think we will have a 20-points a game scorer on our team, but we will have a bunch of guys between 10 or 15 points a game."

After this weekend, the Cougars will be in Twin Falls, Idaho, to face College of Southern Idaho and Salt Lake Community College on Nov. 15-16 and in Casper Nov. 19 before hosting the Cougar tournament Nov. 22-23.

Tournament Schedule

Friday, Nov. 8

5:30 p.m. – Central Wyoming vs. Rawleigh's Finist

7:30 p.m. – WNCC vs. South Plains

Saturday, Nov. 9

1 p.m. – Central Wyoming vs. South Plains

3 p.m. – WNCC vs. Rawleigh's Finest

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