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College men's basketball: Banged-up Bluejays fall to St. Cloud Tech

WORTHINGTON -- The Minnesota West men's basketball team had fallen behind early in other games. And they've almost always been able to come back, like turning on a faucet. Not this time. The Bluejays, missing starting 6-5 sophomore Kuol Chol with...

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Minnesota West Bluejay Alex Preston (21) jumps to fire over St. Cloud Tech forward Jazz Boker (4) Wednesday night in Worthington. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

 

 

WORTHINGTON -- The Minnesota West men’s basketball team had fallen behind early in other games. And they’ve almost always been able to come back, like turning on a faucet.

Not this time.

The Bluejays, missing starting 6-5 sophomore Kuol Chol with an ankle injury, playing Jeffrey Hudson despite his ankle injury, and playing Alex Brown with a sprained wrist, couldn’t come back against visiting St. Cloud Tech on Wednesday. The Cyclones moved out to a 13-point lead late in the first half and stayed in front throughout the second half, winning 81-69.

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It was West’s second straight defeat without Chol in the lineup, and it dropped the team’s record to 16-10 on the season.

Chol hopes to be back in the lineup Saturday in a home game against Rochester. The other Bluejays said they’re not worried -- they fully expect to get back on the winning trail soon.

“Guys were playing roles that they’re not really used to,” said head coach Aaron Poor Bear. “Assuming everyone gets healed up, we’ll be ready to play for the next two weeks.”

Alex Preston, a 6-3 freshman guard from Prior Lake, had a good game for West, scoring 16 points and draining four 3-point shots out of six tries. He made some nifty passes and pushed the ball up the floor on offense with authority. But though he dismissed Wednesday’s result as an aberration that won’t often be repeated, he admitted that the Cyclones had his team’s number.

“We were really struggling man-to-man, we were always a step slow. And help defensively wasn’t there for us. The biggest thing is that we weren’t rebounding,” he said. “We can do everything we can on offense, but if we’re not getting stops on defense, we’re not going to win.”

St. Cloud Tech, which improved to 12-14 with the win, got 16 first half points from freshman Izaiah Sanders, who finished with 22. The Cyclones led 42-35 at halftime, and when they outscored West 13-4 to start the second half, it was clear that the Bluejays had dug themselves another big hole.

Minnesota West got its deficit under 10 points on a Darin Hesebeck layup with 12:18 to go (56-47), but with a little less than four minutes remaining in the game, the margin was 75-60. At 2:27 Preston swished a 3-point shot to make it 77-65. With exactly two minutes left and with the ball in West’s possession, the score was 77-67. But St. Cloud let the Jays get no closer.

Shariff Silas complemented Sanders with 18 points of his own. Jazz Boker added 16 and Jimmie McAfee 10 for St. Cloud Tech, which out-rebounded West 45-37.

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Deshawn Pickford, with another of his patented aggressive, hustling performances, led Minnesota West with 19 points. Tyrone Walker had 10 points.

Brown managed just five points but was able to secure 10 rebounds while dishing out four assists.

“It’s been very, very stagnant the last few games,” Poor Bear said of the Jays’ sluggish first-half offensive output. “Defensively, we couldn’t take care of the drive. They were driving and they were getting everything they wanted. But we miss Kuol. He’s our rim protector.”

Even so, Poor Bear remains confident.

“We just gotta refocus and get ready for the big Rochester game on Saturday,” he said.

West is 8-5 in Southern Division play. Rochester is 10-3.

St. Cloud Tech 42 81

Bluejays 35 69

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  1. CLOUD TECH (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- McDonald 1-2-0-7, McAfee 0-4-2-10, Boker 2-5-0-16, Sanders 0-10-2-22, Silas 3-4-1-18, Williams 0-2-2-6, Kaba 0-1-0-2. Totals 6-28-7-81.

BLUEJAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Pickford 1-6-4-19, Hudson 0-3-0-6, Preston 4-1-2-16, Brown 0-2-1-5, Snelling 0-1-0-2, Syph 0-3-3-9, Hesebeck 0-1-0-2, Walker 0-5-0-10. Totals 5-22-10-69.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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