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Matador men crush Jegos early
AWC 40-34 — 74
TOCC 15-30 — 45
Matadors — Tanner Clayton 16, Walker 15, Dixon 10, Pierce 10, Whitt 5, Uribe 5, Perez 4, Alston 4, Shugrue 3, Brown 2
Jegos — Ryan Tooke 15, Thompson 9, Silvas 7, Valencia 6, Ramon 3, Neskahi 2, Harris 2, Spears 1, Solis, R. Beyale, W. Beyale
The first time the Arizona Western men's basketball team faced Tohono O'odham this season, the Matadors needed to hang on for a victory.
But on Wednesday night? Not so much.
The Matadors blitzed the Jegos early and cruised to a 74-45 win at the House.
“We were better prepared this time,” said the Matadors' 6-foot-9 center Tanner Clayton. “We worked a lot more against their zone on offense, which got up a lot more open shots.”
Clayton led four Matadors in double figures with 16 points and added eight rebounds. Darien Walker added 15 points – thanks to an 11 for 14 performance from the free-throw line – and Aaseem Dixon and Denocchio Pierce each scored 10 apiece. Ryan Tooke scored a team-high 15 points and had eight rebounds for the Jegos.
The Matadors (16-4 overall, 12-1 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) jumped out to a 16-0 lead before a 3-pointer by Jego sophomore guard Roland Roman gave Tohono O'odham its first points with 11:25 left in the first half.
“Once we got the 16-0 run, from there it was just a breeze,” Clayton said.
The Jegos (7-13 overall, 4-9 at ACCAC) had trouble figuring out how to score in the first half. If they went inside, they were met with the Matador bigs like Clayton, who had a pair of blocks in first half. However, Tohono O'odham, which came into the game shooting 22.5-percent from the 3-point line, shot just 1 for 9 from behind the arc in the Matadors' huge first half, which ended with Arizona Western ahead 40-15.
“We're a different team now. We understand that defense is more important than offense, and we're playing together,” said Matador guard Marvin Whitt, who finished with five points and 10 rebounds.
“Our guards were defending them really well, so they couldn't even get the ball inside,” Clayton said.
The Jegos finished the game shooting 2 for 16 from the 3-point line. It also marks the third straight game that the Matadors, who have won six straight, have held their opponent to 45 points or less.
In the first contest between the teams of the season, a 70-63 win by the Matadors on Nov. 14, Tohono O'odham led nearly the entire first half and were ahead 58-51 with six minutes left in the second half before the Matadors snuck away with a victory.
“That was the fifth game of the season, this was the 21st game of the season,” Matador coach Charles Harral said. “I think that was the big difference.”
Coming into Wednesday's contest in a tie for first place in Division I with Central Arizona, who gave the Matadors their only conference loss on the season, Arizona Western is on the back half of their schedule with nine games left in the regular season. Judging by the performance they put on against the Jegos, the Matadors look ready for the home stretch.
“We got nine conference games left – three at home, six on the road – we just have to mentally prepare the next couple weeks,” Harral said. “We can't afford to lose to anybody that's a Division II team in our league … because those other Division I teams are going to be difficult, especially on the road.”