Badgers have dismal showing, fall to Arizona Western 79-93
By James Tilson
YUMA, Ariz.—With a trip to the NJCAA National Tournament hanging in the balance, the Snow College men’s basketball team played one of its worst halves of the year before going down to defeat to Arizona Western College, 79-93.
“They played really well,” said Head Coach Rob Neilson of the AWC Matadors. “We weren’t ready in the first half for their energy, and we had way too many turnovers. By the time we tried to mount a comeback in the second half, it was too little, too late.”
Even though turnovers were a big part of a bad first half for the Badgers, it was their poor shooting that did them in. The Badgers shot 9-32 from the field for 28 percent, and 2-9 from behind the arc, in the first half against AWC. While Snow held a height advantage on paper, the Matador defense quickly established itself and denied Snow any easy shots.
While Snow was having a horrendous shooting night, AWC stars Alphonso Plumber and Cash Williams could not be stopped. The Matadors shot 45 percent in the first half.
Snow’s bad first half was compounded when guard Jake Walker, the Badger’s leading scorer, went down with an ankle injury with about five minutes left in the half. “We really missed him in the second half,” said Neilson.
By the end of the first half, AWC had nearly doubled Snow’s score, leading 25-43.
In the second half, Snow and AWC traded baskets until about the 10-minute mark, when the Badgers finally began to find their shooting touch. It seemed the Matadors high-energy defense had finally gotten a little tired, because Snow’s shooters finally got some space and started hitting 3-point shots.
By the five-minute mark left in the second half, Snow had gotten the deficit back down to single-digits, 70-79. But that was the closest Snow would get for the rest of the game.
Snow finished the year at 26-7, winning the regular season Scenic West Athletic Conference Title, as well as the Region 18 Tournament. “We really had a great year,” said Neilson. “This is the first time our team has gotten a chance to compete for a national tournament bid since 1970.”
By losing to AWC in the District I playoff, Snow missed out on the automatic bid that went to the winner. There was still a chance Snow could have been awarded an at-large bid to the national tournament, as Snow was ranked at No. 16 in the last regular season poll, but on Monday the Badgers were left out of the field of 24 teams.