Just when Southwestern had fought back from an eight-point deficit to tie the game with six minutes left, Central Nebraska made two crucial plays in a 66-54 victory over the Spartan men here Wednesday night.
Sophomore guard Marcus Littleton sank two 3-pointers and Devin Kastrup converted a pump-fake jumper to pull Southwestern even at 51-51 after trailing 51-43.
The Spartans seemed to have the momentum against the taller, faster Raiders. In the final six minutes, it would come down to execution, which plays to Southwestern’s strength.
Then coach Mike Holmes watched two critical plays unfold, much to his frustration.
Tyrone Crisswell, a 6-4 freshman from Omaha, got inside position on two Central Nebraska misfires, and put them back for baskets to push the Raiders up 62-54 with only 1:45 remaining. Instead of facing just a five-point deficit with 2:31 left, now the hole was a little deeper.
“Those two (putbacks) at the end of the game were keys,” Holmes said. “We were getting some pretty good looks out of our transition stuff, but obviously you have to have the ball before you can get into transition. We know that we’re giving up some size and athleticism. That’s why we’re blocking out in practice every day.”
Spartan freshman Jack Harrison had drawn a charge as quick Central guard David Plain drove out of control down the lane. The turnover gave Southwestern the ball trailing 58-53, but Harrison hit his head on the court and left the game briefly. A missed drive gave Central the ball, and that’s when Crisswell converted his key rebounds near the basket.
“We told our guys, we don’t have the luxury of taking possessions off,” Holmes said. “We have to do things right every single time, because they have good enough players that they’ll end up making some plays even when we do everything right.”
Crisswell led the Raiders with 18 points and talented 6-5 sophomore guard James Spencer of Chicago made several key shots during a second-half surge on the way to 15 points.
Southwestern, outscored 33-19 in the second half, saw its production curtail after the break. Kastrup ended with a team-high 15 points. Marquealis Edwards had 10 of his 12 points in the first half, and Patrick Wright had only one free throw in the second half after a 10-point first half.
Sophomore guard Chase Blazek of Creston is out indefinitely with injuries sustained in a Nov. 21 car accident.
The Spartans (3-5) are off until traveling to Storm Lake next Wednesday to take on Buena Vista JV.
CENTRAL NEBRASKA (66) — Tyron Crisswell 18, James Spencer 15, David Plain 13, Steven Ferrini 8, Riak Bol 8, GaRon Dumas 4. Totals — 27 7-10 66. 3-point goals — 5 (Ferrini 2, Plain 1, Spencer 1, Crisswell 1). Team fouls — 14. Fouled out — None.
SOUTHWESTERN (54) — Devin Kastrup 15, Marquealis Edwards 12, Patrick Wright 11, Marcus Littleton 9, Jack Harrison 4, Delby Halcomb 3. Totals — 21 7-10 54. 3-point goals — 5 (Littleton 3, Edwards 1, Kastrup 1). Team fouls — 14. Fouled out — None.
C. Nebraska — 33 66
SWCC — 35 54