MIAMI — Four players from No. 1-ranked Hutchinson Community College scored in double figures Saturday, Nov. 4, as the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Golden Norsemen dropped an 87-42 decision in the final round of the Blue Dragon Classic in the Hutchinson Sports Arena.
NEO opened the two-day event on Friday, Nov. 3, with an 84-52 victory over the junior varsity of Tabor (Kansas) College.
The Golden Norsemen (2-1) return home at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, against the junior varsity of Randall University of Moore.
NEO remains in the NEO Field House, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., for a game with the Oklahoma Wesleyan University junior varsity.
“I think we’ll use these next two JV games to work on what we want to be offensively,” Golden Norse head coach Dustin Grover said. “We’re going to really refine that over these next two games.
“It’s not about just passing the ball and moving players,” Grover said. “We need to learn to pass the ball more effectively and there are still some things that we need to clean up.”
Against the Tabor Bluejays of Hillsboro, Kansas, on Friday, the Golden Norse constructed a 40-15 cushion through the first 20 minutes.
Sophomore guard David Thornton paced the golden Norse offense with 19 points.
“We used the Tabor game to give all of our guys more court time,” Grover said. “It just gave us an opportunity to get every one of our players back on the floor.
“Because we are such a young team, as a coaching staff, we got a better idea of what combinations work,” Grover said. “From this game, we were just looking to gain more experience.”
Remaining undefeated at 3-0, the host Blue Dragons used a smothering defense to cruise past the Norsemen, 87-42, Saturday before a partisan crowd in the Sports Arena.
“From a coaching standpoint we were able to see the things we need to work on during our practice sessions,” Grover said. “Things like offensive patience and not giving into pressure because we basically rushed into everything we tried to do offensively.”
Neither team could get its offenses going in the first half.
Sophomore guard Devonte Bandoo scored the first points of the game at the 18:02 mark and the Blue Dragons proceeded to go scoreless for the next 5:01. Veteran point-guard J.J. Rhymes' tip-in with 13:01 left gave the Dragons a 4-3 lead.
The Dragons led 11-9 at the first-half media timeout and their offense started to show signs of life.
A Robert Whitfield transition layup after an NEO turnover gave the Dragons a 17-9 lead.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Whitfield and Curtis Hollis increased the lead to 14 at 26-12 with 4:27 to play.
A Hollis layup with 1:53 remaining in the first half enabled the Dragons to led 36-21 at halftime.
Hutch scored the first 11 points of the second half and held NEO scoreless for the first 3:57 of the period to lead 47-21 on a Rhymes jumper.
The lead went to 30 (57-27) on a Taylor free throw with 13:06 remaining. It reached 40 on a Taylor jumper with 6:45 left for a 70-30 advantage. Hutch's largest lead was 47 points.
The Blue Dragons held NEO scoreless for stretches of 6:36 and 3:26 of the opening half, but led only 17-10 with 5:57 remaining in the half. Over the final 25:03 of the game, Hutchinson outscored NEO by a 70-32 score.
Dylan Ven Eyck had nine points on three 3-pointers to lead the Norse.
The Blue Dragon's defense limited NEO to 11 of 49 shooting (22.4 percent). The Norse had only six 2-point goals in the contest.
Hutch forced 25 NEO turnovers, 14 by Blue Dragons steals. The Dragons outscored NEO 26-10 in points off turnovers.
Hutchinson posted its largest margin of victory in the all-time series against NEO. Saturday's 45-point victory topped the previous high of 38 set in 2014 (105-67).
The 42 points allowed were the fewest allowed to the Golden Norse in the 23-game series. The previous NEO low output against Hutchinson was 54 points in 2012.
The last time the Blue Dragons held an NJCAA Division I opponent to 42 or fewer points was Fort Scott, which scored 39 in a Region VI Tournament opening-round victory in 2011.
Rhymes paced the balanced scoring attack for Hutchinson with 15 points while Hollis and Rheaquone Taylor had 13 points each off the bench to lead a 54-19 advantage in points off the bench.
Freshman Josh Creach posted his first career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The Blue Dragons shot only 41 percent (33 of 81), hitting a season-high seven 3-pointers in 19 attempts and 14 of 21 from the foul line.
Hutchinson out-rebounded NEO 60-33 with 24 offensive rebounds.
“From both a coach’s and player’s standpoints we can look at this game and see what we need to work on,” Grover said. “We wanted a game like this to expose where we need improvement being such a young team.”