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College mens basketball: Harris’ 26 sparks victorious Jays

WORTHINGTON — In the “Battle of the Bombs,” terms of surrender were unofficially offered at the 2:54 mark of the second half.

That was the moment Minnesota West’s Derek Buysse drained a three-point shot that gave his team a 78-62 lead over Western Wisconsin Tech. The Cavaliers were just about out of steam at that point, and the West men went on to claim an 80-66 victory Saturday afternoon on their home basketball floor.

Three-point shots were a key factor in the outcome. So was the Bluejays’ stepped-up defensive aggressiveness in the second half —their pressure wore down the long-range Tech bombers and allowed them to overcome a 42-38 halftime deficit.

“We made some adjustments in our zone, we moved a little better in it. And I think (the Cavaliers) got a little bit tired,” said Minnesota West head coach Justin Heckenlaible after the game. “We were getting out on their shooters a little quicker. I think we were a step slow in the first half.”

Western Tech is not a tall team. But it is an outstanding long-range shooting team. The Cavs poured in eight of 16 three-pointers in the first half compared to Minnesota West’s five of 11. In the second half, however, the visitors were only able to connect on three of 17 three-point tries whereas West made six of 13.

So the Bluejays, so to speak, beat the Cavs at their own game.

Minnesota West sophomore Cody Harris, a 6-4 forward, made six of nine three-pointers in the game. He was also four of seven from two-point range, and he finished with 26 points. He had 18 of his points in the first half.

“You just have to get in the window and knock down the shot,” Harris said about his hot shooting effort. “That’s what happens, when I make the first few, then it’s going to be a good night.”

The win moved Minnesota West to 11-4 on the 2013-14 campaign while dropping Western Tech to 9-6. West’s next game is on the road Wednesday against Ridgewater. Then it’s home again on Sunday, Jan. 19, against Anoka-Ramsey.

West might have led Saturday’s game at halftime had it not been for its inability to convert put-back shots in the first half. Pounding the offensive boards for 16 offensive rebounds, the Jays failed to get most of those second-chance opportunities through the net. Meanwhile, the Cavalier’s sharpshooters were keeping them in the game. Cody Krueger, a 6-2 sophomore, had 17 first-half points, on seven of 10 field goal shooting.

The Bluejays came out strong to begin the second half, scoring six of the first seven points. A three-point Harris shot at 10:05 gave West a 64-56 lead, and another Harris three-pointer moments later made the score 67-58. A Buysse trey at 8:44 upped the lead to 70-58. Jackson Seitzinger mercilessly connected on a three at 5:24 for a 75-62 West advantage, and at 2:54 Buysse swished another three-pointer just before the shot clock expired to provide for an insurmountable 16-point margin.

Heckenlaible had his team more than ready for Western Tech’s three-point tendencies.

“They shot 33 threes. If they could shoot 40 of them, they would shoot 40. That is their game,” he said.

Buysse finished with 17 points to complement Harris’ effort, and Seitzinger had 11 points with five assists. Blake Fischer had 11 rebounds for West, which outrebounded Tech 50-34 for the game.

West, amazingly, attempted only three free throws in the game, making one.

Krueger had 19 points to pace the Cavaliers.

Western Tech 42 66

Bluejays 38 80

WESTERN TECH (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) — Svendsen 1-1-1-6, Schultz 2-0-0-6, Kubicek 1-0-0-3, Lampert 1-0-0-3, Collins 3-3-0-15, Co. Krueger 2-6-1-19. Hardyman 1-2-3-10, Ch. Krueger 0-2-0-4, Rahman 0-0-0-0. Totals 11-14-5-66.

BLUEJAYS 93FG=2FG-FT-TP) — Hodges 0-3-0-6, Bell 0-0-0-0, Thomas 1-2-0-7, Murry 0-3-1-7, Seitzinger 1-4-0-11, Buysse 3-4-0-17, Fischer 0-3-0-6, Lupton 0-0-0-0, Bennett 0-0-0-0, Harris 6-4-0-26. Totals 11-23-1-80.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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