Sophomore forward Cicero Gonzaga scored 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while leading the Northeastern A&M Golden Norsemen to an 85-71 win in the Student Activities Center Wednesday night over the Western State College Pioneers.
Gonzaga (6-7 of Santa Luzia, Brazil) connected on 8 out of 10 from the field, including a perfect 4 of 4 from 3-point range, while hitting 7 of 8 free throws. Two of Gonzaga's field goals were monster dunks much to the delight of the partisan crowd.
With the victory, coach Dustin Grover's Golden Norse are 17-4 on the year and 8-2 against the Bi-State West. The loss dropped the Pioneers to 12-5 on the season and 5-4 against the Bi-State East.
Concluding a three-game homestand on Monday, the Golden Norsemen open defense of their Bi-State East divisional crown against Carl Albert State Vikings. The Norse won the Bi-State East with a 6-2 record last year.
During the first 10 minutes of the opening half against Western, the lead changed hands 11 times as neither team could get a defensive stop.
With the Pioneers clinging to a 16-14 lead, the Golden Norse received five straight points from center Tulio Cobos, along with a 3-pointer by Gonzaga and a layup by Lionel Green, to build a 24-16 margin with 5:17 until halftime.
After a 3-pointer by Chris Wade and two free throws by Patrick Cornish cut the deficit to 24-21, the Norsemen answered with four straight points by Dominique Gaines and an alley-oop dunk from Gaines to Gonzaga to create a 30-21 NEO cushion with 2:45 before intermission.
Two consecutive layups in the paint by Cobos and two free throws by Gonzaga gave the Golden Norsemen a 36-24 lead at halftime.
Five points by Gonzaga and four each by Cobos and Green, along with a 3-point basket by Reggie Mathis, created a 55-33 Golden Norse advantage in the first eight minutes of the second half.
Behind a 25-point scoring outburst by freshman point guard Akeem Bennett, the Pioneers could draw no closer than 12 points to the Norsemen over the final 10 minutes of the game.
Along with Gonzaga's 27-point performance, the Norsemen received 17 points from Cobos and 10 from Green.
The Golden Norse shot a sizzling 56 percent from the field on 28 of 50 and an even higher percentage of 7 out of 12 from 3-point range for 58 percent. NEO hit 22 of 30 (73 percent) at the line.
Bennett matched Gonzaga's production with 27 points to lead the Pioneers. Cornish contributed 12 points.