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College men's basketball: Bluejays play ... solid

By AARON HAGEN The Globe WORTHINGTON -- Playing solid. That was the goal of the Minnesota West men's basketball team in Monday's game against Mount Marty JV. The Bluejay defense lived up to expectations in an 88-72 victory. "It was a lot of energ...

MWest men web.jpg
Going hard to the basket, Minnesota West's Emmanuel Akot scores two Monday night against Mount Marty JV in Worthington. (Doug Wolter/The Globe)

By AARON HAGEN

The Globe

WORTHINGTON -- Playing solid.

That was the goal of the Minnesota West men’s basketball team in Monday’s game against Mount Marty JV.

The Bluejay defense lived up to expectations in an 88-72 victory.

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“It was a lot of energy and a lot of guys were talking,” MW’s Emmanuel Akot said. “The one thing he’s always preaching us is to be solid. We always want to reach and try to jump the defense and get a whole bunch of steals, but when we play solid, we are athletic and really long. If we play solid we can hold teams. That’s all we have to do, play solid. That’s what he kept teaching us the whole entire game and the whole entire week, to be solid.”

MW forced 22 turnovers, and turned up the pressure after the Lancers cut the deficit to four points midway through the second half.

“That’s something we preached after the Sanford Classic, was being solid,” West head coach Taylor Lupton said. “We told the guys you you don’t have to reach to steal the ball, if you get a guy stopped, it’s not your job to steal the ball, it’s your job to make that pass hard. I think we did a very good job of that.”

Not only were the Bluejays solid on the defensive end, but they hit their mark offensively, too. A total of 12 players scored as West shot 52 percent from the field.

“It was definitely nice to have a lot of guys that can score,” Lupton said. “I put on the board today, you have to be able to pass, shoot and score, everybody has to. You can’t be putting the ball on the top of your head, you have to be ready to go.”

DeShawn Pickford led MW with 24 points, while Jaimon Cheek had 13 and Akot finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds.

“Coming into every game, I’m always nervous,” Akot said. “I take all the hard work I put in during the summer and I always tell myself, you work really hard, you got it, you’re really good, you’re a good player, be confident.”

The Bluejays led from the tip as Pickford hit a 3 to start the scoring. Akot added a pair of baskets and Jeffery Hudson made a triple as West led 10-4.

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“Right away from the jump we had a lot of energy, our bench was in it, the crowd was in it and the whole entire starting five, we were in it,” Akot said. “We had a lot of energy and that was really good for us.”

MW took a 41-33 lead into the break, and pushed that lead to 14 midway through the quarter.

However, the Lancers’ Aaron Koupal had an answer. He hit back-to-back 3s and turned a steal into a dunk, as the lead was down to four points. Koupal, who finished with 21 points, scored 15 of Mount Marty’s first 21 points in the second half.

But the Jays responded in a big way. Montrez Hearon scored seven quick points, Gary Smith threw down a dunk and Pickford made a trio of free throws to highlight a run that gave West an 18-point lead to put the game away.

“Offensively, something I thought we did a lot better was recognizing the back-door cutting,” Lupton said. “Another big thing we worked on was if a guy is overplaying, go back door. For the most part, we got them the ball on the back cut and most guys can score from there.”

Minnesota West improves to 2-1 this season and hosts Iowa Lakes on Saturday.

“We just have to have a lot of energy and we have to be hungry,” Akot said. “We can’t be satisfied with just one win. We have Iowa Lakes on Saturday and they are a really, really good team. We have to come out right out of the bat and have a lot of energy.”

Mount Marty JV 33 39 -- 72Bluejays 41 47 -- 88MOUNT MARTY JV (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Riggs 0-1-0-2, Jewett 1-2-3-11, Koupal 4-4-1-21, Budmayr 1-4-0-11, Lonneman 0-2-1-5, Saiz 0-3-0-6, Boorom 0-1-1-3, Kanthak 0-4-2-10, Filipovich 0-1-1-3. Totals 6-22-10-72.BLUEJAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Cheek 0-4-5-13, Pickford 2-6-6-24, Hudson 2-1-0-8, Nave 0-1-0-2, Akot 0-5-1-11, Mikel 0-0-1-1, Heron 0-1-5-7, Morales 1-1-1-6, Smith 0-2-0-4, Tor 0-2-1-5, Cruz-Diaz 0-1-0-2, DeLange 1-1-0-5. Totals 6-25-20-88.

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