Cloud County Men's Basketball Improves to 3-0 with Two Wins at the Pratt Classic
The Cloud County Community College men's basketball team moved to 3-0 on the young season with an 88-59 win over Next Level Hoops Academy and a 101-69 victory over Kansas Wesleyan University JV at the Pratt Classic.
Sophomore shooting guard Jerome Kidd Jr. poured in a game-high 18 points on an economical 8-of-14 shooting and was one of the catalysts behind a dominant second-half effort that saw the T-Birds double-up NLHA, 46-23, over the final 20 minutes.
"This was the first time with this team where we came out, either in the first half or second half, and just put our foot on the pedal and went," said Cloud County head coach Jordan Altman. "Once our guys really bought into that pace (Saturday), the game was over."
After averaging 5.1 points per game as a freshman, Kidd Jr., who also added six rebounds on Saturday, has ratcheted up his aggressiveness with games of 17 points and 18 points to begin the season.
"He was a guy during recruiting who was pitched to me as a scorer and someone who can go get 20 points a night. I think last year Jerome relied a little too much on his perimeter shooting and passed up some opportunities to get to the hole," Altman said. "So far, he's getting the majority of his points by attacking and getting into the lane and the mid-range. He's always been a great athlete, but the only time he use to dunk was on breakaways. Now he's also showing the ability to make a move and dunk over guys in traffic."
The success in transition for Kidd Jr. and the T-Birds started with their effort on defense Saturday as they limited NLHA to 24 percent shooting in the second half. Cloud County forced 20 turnovers, 10 of which came off steals.
Redshirt freshman guard Nysir Scott was one of the defensive stars as he finished with a team-high four steals to go with his 12 points. Freshman point guard Ty Duin added seven points and three steals, as well.
"We had our hands on passes the entire second half. Extremely active hands on defense," Altman said. "I thought Nysir did a fantastic job on the weak side of keeping his hands up. Gabe did another excellent job on defense shutting guys down, and Ty dug a lot of balls out of the post when he helped down. The guys didn't take any breaks on defense in the second half. They finished every possession. It was those steals and deflections that really got our offense going and allowed us to balloon out the lead."
The T-Birds shot 57 percent (35-of-62) for the game and an even 60 percent (18-of-30) during its second-half surge.
Freshman forward Edoardo Del Cadia was the fourth T-Bird in double-figures with 15 points, joining Scott, Kidd Jr., and freshman Gabe Pieschl (10 points). He added 11 rebounds to complete the first double-double of his collegiate career.
Defensively, Del Cadia drew the assignment of guarding NLHA star forward Amadou Traore, holding the NCAA DI hopeful to 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
"He really accepted the challenge. The guy he was guarding (Traore) supposedly has a dozen NCAA DI offers and is about the same size as Edoardo. He took on the challenge that he wasn't going to let that guy beat him," Altman said.
Cloud County sophomores Alvin Thompson and Adetomi Ayilara each added nine points in the win, as well.
"I'm really happy with and excited about the mentality of the team right now," said Altman. "We have a deep rotation where every guy on the team can contribute in a different way. We're all happy for each other. We have 11 guys playing for each other right now and that's always great to see as a coach."
The game Sunday against Kansas Wesleyan JV was never in doubt for Cloud County as the T-Birds built a 19-point lead at the half at 54-33, again paced by Kidd Jr. as he poured in a team-high 21 points off the bench on 7-of-10 shooting.
He was one of five T-Birds in double-figures on Sunday, joined by Scott (11 points), Ayilara (12 points, 5-of-6 shooting), Del Cadia (13 points, five rebounds) and Thompson.
Freshman forward Iyen Enaruna and Pieschl each added eight points and tied for the team-lead in rebounds with eight in the victory, as well.
For Thompson, Sunday was arguably the best game of the season to date for the 6'3 guard out of St. Louis as he finished with 19 points, four rebounds and a team-high five assists while not committing a turnover.
"We're really trying to push him and force him to make the jump from a freshman to a sophomore player," said Altman of Thompson. "Physically, he's been ready since Day One. He just needs to continue to make strides as a cerebral basketball player and we saw a lot of that out of him (Sunday). He made adjustments, didn't make similar mistakes, and really went after the rim."
As a team, Cloud County shot an even 50 percent (38-of-76) from the field Sunday and committed just 12 turnovers.
The T-Birds' aggressiveness led to a dominating advantage at the free-throw line, finishing 24-of-33 (73 percent) compared to 5-of-11 (46 percent) for Kansas Wesleyan JV.
As good as the offense was, there was still room for improvement for the T-Birds as they were a mere 1-for-11 from 3-point range.
"To be honest, I'm a little dumbfounded by our 3-point percentage right now," Altman said. "That was a big focus of our postgame conversation. I can't think of a guy on the team that I wouldn't let shoot a 3-pointer. They are all capable shooters. It's just something we need to focus on the next couple days as we get ready to head down to Council Bluffs, Iowa."
Cloud County's next two games are scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Council Bluffs at the Hampton Inn Reiver Classic, hosted by Iowa Western Community College.
The T-Birds play at 3 p.m. each day against Dakota College at Bottineau and Des Moines Area Community College, respectively.
"We're going to play two very talented and very well-coached NJCAA Division II teams," Altman said. "We're going to have to play extremely well and efficient to beat both of those teams. It'll be good for us to really test ourselves in an unfamiliar environment. It should be a good weekend for us as long as we come prepared to take on two teams that are going to execute, play hard and defend for 40 minutes."