Life on the road proved to be difficult for the Chadron State men’s basketball team last weekend.
The Eagles’ losing streak stretched to 13 games when they were overwhelmed 82-49 by Colorado State-Pueblo on Friday night and shaded 69-67 at New Mexico Highlands the next evening.
Somewhat like Charles Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities,” but in reverse order, it was the worst of times and the best of times for the Eagles when it came to shooting from the field.
They had their worst field goal percentage of the season, 27 percent (17-63) at Pueblo and their best 56.5 (26-46) at Las Vegas. However, 46 shots from the field have seldom been enough to win a college game since the shot clock began ticking in 1987, especially when the opposing team is 26-32 at the free throw line and your team is 12 of 14.
The Eagles outscored Highlands 55-43 from the field, but the difference at the charity stripe was too wide to overcome. Both teams were perfect from the line in the second half: CSC was 5-of-5; Highlands 17-17.
The Cowboys opened both halves with a hot hand. They jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the opening half, helping them to a 33-26 intermission margin. Highlands also tallied the first four points of the second half to go up by 11.
The Eagles took their only lead at 48-47 midway of the second half and tied the score on three occasions later on, the last one at 59-59 with 3:27 to play. The Cowboys were never ahead by more than four points down the stretch, but made two field goals and two free shots in the final 71 seconds to hold on and claim the victory.
Mike Nwabuzor, a 6-2 senior, led Highlands with 17 points, including 11-11 at the free throw line. Desmond Carpenter, a 6-1 freshman, added 13 points, 6-6 junior Jordan Jones 10 and three more Cowboys eight apiece.
For the third straight game, Alliance sophomore Jordan Mills paced the Eagles with 16 points. Freshman Dru Kuxhausen contributed 13 and workhorse Jeremy Ruffin 12 to go with 10 rebounds, giving him six double-doubles for the season.
Two of the Eagles’ big men, Michael Johnson and Matt Reader, fouled out with 6:14 and 3:02 left, respectively, but the Cowboys lost their leading scorer for the season, Jacob Holland (16.3 per game) on fouls with seven minutes remaining after he’d played only 12 minutes and scored eight points.
Chadron State coach Houston Reed said the Eagles had no one to blame but themselves for their horrendous shooting night at Pueblo.
While they haven’t been hot shooters all season, making just 41.4 percent from the field, last in the RMAC, their previous low was 32.6 percent vs. Augustana.
“We got good looks, the ball just wouldn’t drop for us,” Reed noted.
Pueblo led 35-22 at halftime and outscored the Eagles 47-27 in the second half, when none of the ThunderWolves’ starters played more than four minutes.
Five Pueblo players scored in double figures, led by 6-4 sophomore Donovan Oldham with 16.
Mills, who was four of seven from the field, including two of three from 3-point range, was the Eagles’ only double-digit scorer, with 12.
CSU-Pueblo 82, Chadron State 49
Chadron State—Jordan Mills 12, Jeremy Ruffin 8, Michael Johnson 8, Matt Reader 6, Andrew Walker 6, Leigh Saffin 5, Dru Kuxhausen 4. Totals: 17-63 (4-21) 11-14 49 points, 38 rebounds, 16 turnovers.
CSU-Pueblo—Donovan Oldham 16, BJ Hardy 11, Mika Nuolivirta 11, Jason Anderson 10, Will Newman 10, Corey Seng 9, Michael Ward 5, Gavin Liggett 3, Josh Smith 3, Tanner Ervin 2, Mark Williams 2. Totals: 30-54 (8-26) 14-16 82 points, 34 rebounds, 12 turnovers.
Chadron State 22 27 ----49
CSU-Pueblo 35 47 ----82
3-pointers: CSC—Mills 2, Saffin 1, Kuxhausen 1. CSU-P—Hardy 3, Oldham 2, Liggett, Smith, Ward, all 1.
N.M. Highlands 69, Chadron State 67
Chadron State—Jordan Mills 16, Dru Kuxhausen 13, Jeremy Ruffin 12, Jaisean Jackson 8, Andrew Walker 6, Matt Reader 5, Michael Johnson 4, Eric Jamerman 3. Totals: 26-46 (3-10) 12-14 67 points, 27 rebounds, 17 turnovers.
N.M. Highlands—Mike Nwabuzor 17, Demond Carpenter 13, Jordan Jones 10, Jacob Holland 8, Christ Lewis 8, Nmandi Okjoro 8, Adrian LaFleur 3, D.J. Bustos 2. Totals: 19-47 (5-14) 26-32 69 points, 22 rebounds, 9 turnovers.
Chadron State 26 41 ----67
N.M Highlands 33 36 ----69
3-pointers: Mills, Kuxhausen, Jamerman, all 1. NMHU—Carpenter 2, Jones 2, LaFleur 1.