« on: November 21, 2015, 07:47:54 pm »
#7 Mt. Union--68
Starting only two, and playing a total of only three players for more than 2 minutes who saw a meaningful amount of PT last season, the NCC Cardinals molded a dash of old with a large measure of new into a recipe for a 15 point win over the nation's currently #7 ranked team. In reality, the final margin of victory felt even wider as the Cardinals, who built a 21 point lead 2/3s of the way through the 1st half, still led by 15 at the break, and were never seriously threatened in the second stanza. Full disclosure requires reporting that the Raiders top player did not dress due to injury. His presence would likely have resulted in a tighter score, but it's highly doubtful it would have resulted in a different outcome.
In his first game as a Cardinal, soph transfer Alex Sorenson dominated throughout to finish with a double-double of 27 points and 11 rebounds. If not for a few too quick in the offensive pattern outside shots, Sorenson likely would have exceeded the 30 point mark. In addition to his 27 and 11, Alex added 2 blocks and 3 steals. He was excellently supported by senior Kevin Honn who totaled 17 points on 6 of 9 shooting, and added 7 rebounds. Leading only 26-17 about 2/3s of the way through the 1st half, the Cards blew things open with an 11-0 run over the next couple of minutes, 9 of the 11 points being tallied by Honn. With a strong showing in his first collegiate game, freshman Aiden Chang was the Cards third high scorer with 10 points on 2 of 4 from beyond the arc, and a perfect 4 of 4 from the line.
While NCC did not shoot well as a team, they did clamp down defensively when needed, holding UMU starters Jake Jacubec to 2 points under his previous 3 game average, Jarrett Ruffin to 5+ under, and Cody Dillon to 14+ under. I was surprised that Ruffin, who looks to be able to play the middle linebacker position for the UMU powerhouse football team, was not more dominate. The one UMU player that no one or nothing could stop was JJ Kukura who put on an All-American performance with 33 points and 11 rebounds on better than 50% shooting from the field, and a perfect 10 of 10 from the line. It's hard to believe he is not a starter for the Raiders.
Besides the contributions of those already mentioned above, newcomers Jagger Anderson, Connor Raridon, and Jaquan Phipps blended into the lineup well, adding 3,4, and 3 points respectively. Verterans Erwin Henry, with 6 points, and Jeremy Ireland, with 4, lent strong support, with each of their baskets coming when the visitors appeared ready to make a run.
Perhaps both the most satisfying and telling thing about the cohesiveness of a team with so many new faces was the team total of 21 assists (on 30 made baskets), combined with only 7 turnovers, unusually low at any time of the season, but especially noteworthy in the first game of the year against quality competition. PG Jagger Anderson was a magician at times, handing out 7 helpers, several of a spectacular quality. Honn, Raridon, and Phipps all had 3 assists with zero turnovers. The Cards also combined for 8 steals on the night.
They will face additional quality competition when they take on #17 U of Chicago tomorrow at 2:00.