College men's basketball: Bluejays sloppy, lose to Little Priest

College men's basketball: Bluejays sloppy, lose to Little Priest

By The Globe on Dec 12, 2018 at 10:47 p.m.
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The Minnesota West Bluejays' Montrez Hearon (15) gets ahold of a little bit of jersey as Little Priest Tribal College guard Tyriek Railey speeds to the basket Wednesday night in Worthington. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)1 / 2

BY AARON HAGEN

The Globe

WORTHINGTON -- In close games, every possession matters.

And in Wednesday night's men's college basketball game, Minnesota West gave away too many in a 79-75 loss to Little Priest Tribal College.

"We didn't value the basketball," MW head coach Taylor Lupton said. "We had 23 turnovers. When you have the ball, it's like, 'This is mine, don't take it from me.' We're just letting guys have it, 23 times is lazy."

The Warriors often converted turnovers into points, including some highlight-reel dunks. Offensively, the Warriors shot 39 percent from the field but held West to 31 percent shooting.

"We didn't shoot well as a whole," Lupton said. "We were greedy when we were going to the basket. Two guys would come help and we wouldn't dump it off. We were being greedy."

West, which finished 4 of 16 from 3-point range, did excel at the free-throw line. The Bluejays made 33 of 40 attempts, which kept the game close.

"That's good for us," Lupton said of the free-throw shooting. "That's what we expect."

The Bluejays (5-4) took a 3-0 lead in the game, but LPTC answered with an 8-0 run. MW never led again.

West was within two midway through the first half, but a 3 from Earl Gresham (16 points) was followed by an off-the-backboard dunk by Gresham to pad the lead.

With a 10-point deficit in the final eight minutes, the West offense went dry. MW had one field goal in the final eight minutes, six seconds. However, the Jays went 12 for 12 from the line in that period and trailed by six at the break.

Out of halftime, West continued to hang close. After a dunk from Tyriek Railey, the Warriors led by 15 points with 8:08 remaining.

MW's Gary Smith answered with a shot and Chris Morales scored on a drive and nailed a triple as the Bluejays showed signs of life.

"I could feel it with about eight minutes left that we were starting to climb back," Lupton said. "And we did, but we couldn't finish."

Minnesota West was with three points, 73-70 after two Morales free throws, but Donte Innocent (game-high 21 points) hit a 3 to push the lead. After more free throws, West was again within three, but Innocent hit a free throw. Jymell Nave (nine points, nine rebounds) answered for the Bluejays with two foul shots with 6.6 seconds remaining, but Innocent made two more to seal the win.

"I hate losing, but these guys split with Riverland and only lost to Iowa Lakes by 10," Lupton said. "We're not in a bad spot, but I'm not in the happiest spot. We definitely need to improve."

DeShawn Pickford led the Bluejays with 17 points, while Smith had 12 points and eight rebounds. Morales and Jaimon Cheek each scored 11 points. Emmanuel Akot had six blocks and nine rebounds.  

The Warriors committed 17 turnovers and had 15 steals. West had seven steals.

"We always get guys to try to mirror the ball, so you always have your hand where the ball is at to make the pass tougher," Lupton said. "We definitely weren't doing that tonight. We were letting all the passes go easily and it's not the fact you have to steal the ball, you just have to have it there so they have to adjust."

The Bluejays are off until Jan. 4.

Little Priest Tribal College 39 79Bluejays 33 75LITTLE PRIEST TRIBAL COLLEGE (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Railey 2-2-2-12, Hawk 0-1-0-2, Laurent 1-1-0-5, Gresham 1-6-1-16, Fields 0-4-3-11, Innocent 2-2-11-21, Brown 0-2-4-8, Sheridan 0-0-2-2, Denney 0-1-0-2. Totals 6-19-23-79.BLUEJAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Cheek 2-1-3-11, Pickford 1-3-8-17, Hudson 0-2-0-4, Nave 0-2-5-9, Akot 0-1-2-4, Heron 0-0-7-7, Morales 1-3-2-11, Smith 0-3-6-12. Totals 4-15-33-75.