Big WNCC vs EWC doubleheader tonight at the Palace

The Western Nebraska Community College and Eastern Wyoming College men's and women's basketball teams have a lot to play for when they tangle Tuesday night at Cougar Palace.

The WNCC and EWC women come into the contest as the top two teams in the sub-region. The Cougars enter with a 4-0 sub-region mark while the Lancers are 4-2. Both teams are also coming off of wins over Trinidad State Junior College and Otero Junior College over the weekend.

Tip-off for the sub-region contest begins at 5:30 p.m. with the men's game to follow.

EWC women's coach Tom Andersen said this could be an intense game for the fans to come out and watch.

"I think we match up good and both teams are playing well," Andersen said. "It should be a great game for the fans and hopefully it is a great game for both teams. We are excited to play and they are excited to play at home, so it should be a lot of fun."

Andersen said what makes the game exciting is that both teams are on win streaks. And, if the Cougars can win the contest, they can take a huge lead in the sub-region standings with hopes of hosting the Region IX tournament in March.

"It will be an important game {Tuesday} and obviously WNCC is playing really well and it is at their place," Andersen said. "It will be a measuring stick to see where we are at. We know going in that they are very well coached and they are a great defensive teams, which will be a real test for us. But, you know, it is a big game at this point of the sub-region as the standings go."

Both women's teams are playing well. The Lancers have won their last five games while the Cougar women are on a 7-0 win streak. Andersen said both teams are playing well, but the Cougars are the one are playing exceptionally well.

"We had a good week last week winning three," he said. "We are playing better. Right now we have everybody healthy and back playing. Still, it will be a challenge for us and give us an idea where we are at and where we need to go. Obviously WNCC is the top dog in the region right now. We just have to see what we can do against them."

Both teams bring tough defenses into the contest. The Cougars are only giving up 43.9 points a game, while the Lancers are not far behind, allowing 57.8 points a game. The Cougar women's success this season has been their defense where they only have given up more than 60 points twice this season in 20 games. WNCC gave up 61 points to the Las Vegas Heat in a 91-61 game. They also allowed 61 points to Trinidad State on Friday, topping the Trojans 94-61.

Offensively, both teams bring in explosive offenses. WNCC is averaging 79.6 points a game while the Lancers are scoring at a clip of 64.7 a game. The Cougars have scored 85-plus points three times in their last seven games.

The Lancers biggest offensive output came in the season opener when they beat the Wyoming All-stars 91-39. This past Saturday, the Lancers racked up the second most points this season in the 78-46 win over Trinidad State.

The biggest weapon offensively for the two teams is 3-point shooting, where they have combined for 208 treys. The Cougars, however, have hit their long shots more effectively, hitting on 40 percent (142 of 355). EWC is making 29.2 percent (64 of 219). WNCC connected on 10 3-pointers in each of their last two contests against Trinidad State and Otero this past weekend.

Andersen said while his team has connected on 64 treys this season, the Cougars shooting worries him.

"Percentage, especially the last few games, they [WNCC] are shooting the ball extremely well from the 3-point mark," he said. "That is always a big concern. There are two things, they have good shooters and they also do a good job in their offense getting them good shots to take and that is why they shoot a high percentage. Our goal defensively is not to give them as good of looks. They are going to make some threes, but we have to limit the number of shots they get. But, you just can't take away because they have kids capable of getting to the basket. They have a good inside game, so we to play good defense all the way around. That will be a good key to the game."

Andersen is hoping his team will be in the contest at the end.

"I hope we can hang with them. They [WNCC] is obviously a great defensive team. They trap well. They are strong. They don't foul a lot. They are disciplined in what they do. We might not be as strong as they are physically and probably not as disciplined. Defense is what has been keeping us in games and we will definitely have to play good defense to stay with them."

The men's contest will also be interesting. Both teams are coming off of losses on Saturday. The Lancers fell to Trinidad 62-59, while the Cougars lost in overtime 100-93 to Otero Junior College.

On top of everything, WNCC will also be without the services of head coach Russ Beck, who was ordered to stay home because of illness. In his absence, assistant coach Yahosh Bonner will coach the team with men's assistant coach Hamidou Conde and women's basketball coach Dave Harnish serving as assistants.

Beck has plenty of faith in his coaching staff to get the team ready for the Highway 26 battle.

"I know the staff will coach them up and if the boys will be disciplined enough to fine tune some things defensively, we can start winning consistently," he said via text.

The men's game has plenty on the line, especially after Saturday's defeats. The Lancers enter with a 4-3 sub-region mark and 10-8 overall and are tied for third in the sub-region standings. The Cougars are still in the hunt, but set at 1-3 in the sub-region and 7-10 overall. The Cougars have lost four of their last eight games by overtime.

After Tuesday, the Cougars will head to Casper Sunday. WNCC won't return home until Feb. 8-9 when they play Lamar Community College and Northeastern Junior College.

NOTES: The WNCC vocal music department will perform selections from their latest performances during halftime of the game.

Region IX Standings

Men's South Sub-Region

Team Conf. Overall

Lamar 6-1 12-7

North Platte 3-2 13-4

Trinidad State 4-3 11-7

Laramie County 4-3 14-6

Eastern Wyoming 4-3 10-8

Otero 3-3 15-5

NE Colorado 2-4 5-13

Western Nebraska 1-3 7-10

McCook 1-6 5-12

Men's North Sub-Region

Casper 6-1 15-4

Sheridan 6-1 17-4

Central Wyoming 5-1 15-3

Gillette 4-3 10-8

Northwest Wyoming 3-4 14-7

Little Big Horn 2-4 5-14

Miles 1-4 7-11

Western Wyoming 1-5 4-15

Dawson 1-6 4-14

Women's South Sub-Region

Western Nebraska 4-0 7-13

Eastern Wyoming 4-2 10-6

Lamar 3-2 15-7

McCook 3-3 15-4

Otero 1-3 11-6

Trinidad State 1-3 10-8

NE Colorado 0-3 9-9

Women's North Sub-Region

Sheridan 7-0 16-4

Western Wyoming 5-1 15-3

Gillette 5-2 18-3

Casper 5-2 16-3

Northwest Wyoming 3-4 10-11

Miles 2-3 11-7

Central Wyoming 1-5 8-11

Dawson 1-6 8-10

Little Big Horn 0-6 2-17

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