Diminutive Demetris Love made a lot of shots from long distance for Johnson & Wales during the first half of a men’s basketball game Tuesday against South Dakota School of Mines.
But long and lanky Michael Dietz made a bunch from a lot closer in the second half for Mines, and Love found the going a little tougher. The Hardrockers’ size and strength eventually won out over the Wildcats’ quickness and shotmaking in an 84-75 win at the Kieffer Family Dental Hardrockers New Year’s Basketball Bash.
The win snaps a five-game losing streak for the Hardrockers (5-9)
Dietz, a 6-foot-8 forward, scored 20 of his 31 points in the second half and finished the game shooting 12-of-15 from the floor as the Hardrockers pounded the Wildcats’ zone defense in the paint and pulled away in the second half.
“We noticed we had a height advantage and height always kind of helps out in basketball,” Dietz said of a Wildcats squad whose tallest player is a 6-foot-5 freshman. “The middle (of the zone defense) was really open all night and we wanted to take advantage of that.”
The Wildcats led 39-38 at the half after Love went 4-of-6 from 3-point range on his way to 17 first-half points.
“He’s a good player,” Mines head coach Jason Henry said of the 5-foot-9 Love. “We’ve got some height on him and we made him shoot over the top a bit (in the second half).”
The Hardrockers shut off Love’s looks from 3-point range in the second half — he went 0-for-1 from 3-point range over the final 20 minutes — and went on a 20-6 run over the first 5:34 of the second half to take a 58-45 lead. The Wildcats made a run at that lead, but never had enough to overcome it.
“We came out in that second half and turned up the intensity and kept it up as far as defensive communication,” Henry said. “Then we hit a couple of shots and that was the difference in the game. But again, we’ve got a few 10, 12 even 15-point leads against some good teams and we just can’t seem to sustain it.”
Mines led 71-57 with 7:39 to play before the Wildcats extended their defense and forced a few turnovers, got back-to-back triples from Jamar White, watched the Hardrockers miss a few free throws and all of a sudden it was a 75-72 game with 4:32 to play. But again, Mines had an answer.
Lance Kilburn made a nice drive and converted a big 3-point play that fouled White out, Love fouled out a possession later, and the Hardrockers picked up their fifth win of the season.
“We’ve got a game against a tough team with one of the best guards in the country coming in here tomorrow,” Henry said of Eastern New Mexico and guard Rodney Blackmon, who averages 20.9 points and 4.2 assists per game while shooting 47 percent from 3-point range. “It’s nice to get a win and we need to take that intensity we came out with in the second half (Tuesday) and bring it from the tip (Wednesday).”
Caleb Shockman added 18 points and nine rebounds for Mines, which shot 16-of-23 from the floor for a blistering 69.6 percent. Andrew Rebol and Kilburn added 11 and 10, respectively.
Mines plays Eastern New Mexico today at 5 p.m. Johnson & Wales (3-15) will play Eastern New Mexico to conclude the event on Thursday.