College basketball: Strong team, individual efforts pace Bluejays
WORTHINGTON -- Emmanuel Tor knows that he's undersized for his role. But he also knows that you can't measure the true size of a basketball player until you measure his heart.
Tor, a 6-2 freshman forward reserve for the Minnesota West Bluejays, says that some of the Jays' opponents might see him as a "twig." At 180 pounds, he looks lighter than that. But on Wednesday night, the Sioux Falls, S.D., product came off the bench to score nine points in a 71-59 victory over MState-Fergus Falls. He was 5-for-7 at the free throw line and pulled down nine rebounds.
"I've been waiting for my time to shine, waiting for my chance to come off the bench and help my team," Tor said. "They can always measure you for your size, but it's about the effort. I'm a 6-2, 180 guard-forward, which is pretty small. But I like to think I can jump against people who are taller than me."
The home victory, in West's first division game of the new year, upped its overall record to 6-6 and demonstrated the team's improvement at maintaining a lead. West led virtually throughout the game and pushed its lead to 10 points in the early stages of the second half. But the Spartans refused to go away.
Determined to make a run in the closing minutes, however, the Fergus Falls visitors watched as the Bluejays slowly and deliberately increased their lead. It made the final minutes pretty boring for fans who settled in for an exciting finish.
"I like it when it's not interesting like that," said West head coach Taylor Lupton.
Minnesota West's Jaimon Cheek, who made some key 3-point shots in the first half, led his team in scoring with 17 points, and he also contributed 12 rebounds. Point guard and floor leader Deshawn Pickford finished with 15 points, three assists, three steals and six rebounds -- once again exhibiting extraordinary body control on the drive.
Chris Morales, West's other sturdy ball-handler and passer, had 11 points and two assists. Christophe Bwayna did not score in the first half, but he tallied 14 points in the second half while converting four of five 3-point attempts.
It all came together for a strong team win. In the first half, Fergus Falls hit just three of 14 3-point attempts to West's 3-for-12, but Cheek was 3-for-5 by himself. In the second half, Bwayna's scoring and the Bluejays' good team defense eliminated any suggestion of a lull in play.
"We wanted to bury them right away. We didn't want to let them come back," said Tor. "And in this league, anybody can come back. Everybody plays at a fast pace."
MState-Fergus Falls' sharpshooter, Alend Alemadi, led all scorers with 20 points. Teammate Martin LaFond had 10.
"Teams will keep fighting, and (Fergus Falls) definitely kept fighting. The guys played real good defense in the second half, and rebounded the ball. That's the most important thing, we rebounded hard (West had 49 to Fergus Falls' 48). And we made quality shots -- we definitely had some big 3s in that game," Lupton said. "I'm never gonna complain when we get a conference win. We've definitely come a long way since the beginning of the year. That's one thing we can say, we're definitely headed in the right direction."
MState-Fergus Falls 34 59
Bluejays 35 71
MSTATE-FERGUS FALLS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Miller 1-2-0-7, LaFond 1-3-2-10, Priem 1-0-0-3, Martin 0-0-4-4, Solberg 0-3-1-7, Alemadi 1-5-7-20, Newman 2-1-1-8. Totals 6-14-13-59.
BLUEJAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Cheek 4-1-3-17, Pickford 0-7-1-15, Morales 1-3-2-11, Tor 0-2-5-9, DeLange 0-0-0-0, Hearon 0-0-0-0, Bwayna 4-1-0-14, Gehl 0-0-0-0, Akot 0-2-1-5. Totals 9-16-12-71.