Good in the first half, and good enough in the second, the Cloud County Thunderbirds opened the Jayhawk Conference Western Division season with a 74-62 win over Colby Saturday night in Bryant Gymnasium.
Cloud County shot 60 percent (18 of 30) from the field and limited Colby to just nine field goals in building a 41-23 halftime advantage.
A more assertive Colby team trimmed the deficit to 10 points, 47-37, early in the second half.
Cloud County was able to stave off the surge by the Trojans, and hit six straight free throws in the final minute to lock up the win, and improve to 10-5 on the season.
“I thought we played a pretty good first half, especially defensively,” Cloud County coach Chad Eshbaugh said, “We took the big lead into the lockeroom, and unfortunately I thought we came out in the second half kind of lethargic.”
Cloud County, which hadn’t played since a loss to Iowa Western back on Dec. 11, was dominant on both ends of the floor in the first half.
Colby was able to hang around for the first seven minutes, and trailed just 13-11.
A pair of Ed Dyson dunks, sandwiched around a three-point basket by Gerrae Williams, gave the T-Birds a 20-11 advantage.
It was a 22-14 game when Williams buried another three and Marcus Fillyaw scored on a drive.
Neither team would score for better than two minutes before a bucket by Connor McDaniel put Cloud County up 29-14.
The T-Birds answered a bucket by Kris Rolle with a three by McDaniel.
Braden Williams hit a three for Colby, but Dyson knocked down one of his own to make it 35-19.
Dyson scored 13 of his game high 24 points in the first half. The 6-4 sophomore finished 9 of 14 from the field and 5 of 10 from the free throw line.
Colby would get no closer than 14 points over the final four minutes of the first half, and trailed 41-23 at the break.
A jumper by Gerrae Williams 15 seconds into the second half gave Cloud County its biggest lead, 43-23.
Attacking on offense and pressuring on defense, Colby started to whittle away at the deficit.
Rolle, who finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds, scored nine during a 14-4 run by the Trojans that made it a 47-37 game with just over 14:00 to play.
“Kris Rolle is a great rebounder, one of the best in the country. He made a great individual effort to get on the boards, and that sparked them a little bit,” Eshbaugh said.
Cloud County was able to put together a 9-2 spurt, capped off by a three by McDaniel, and led 56-39 with under 10 minutes to play.
The T-Birds missed five straight free throws over the next three minutes as the Trojans climbed to within 11 points, 56-45.
“Credit Colby, they played better in the second half,” Eshbaugh said.
A basket by Isaiah Anaekwe, two free throws by Dyson and a layup by Fillyaw put Cloud County up 62-45.
Colby fought back to within eight points, 68-60, when Marko Kracun hit a three with 1:07 on the clock.
The Trojans forced a Cloud County turnover, but the T-Birds came up with a steal.
Kracun was called for an intentional foul with 57 seconds on the clock.
Williams made both free throws, and Rodrick Robinson was fouled three seconds later. He went two of two from the line.
Fillyaw made two free throws just 12 seconds later as the T-Birds locked up the win in the first Conference game.
Dyson had seven rebounds to go with his 24 points.
Williams finished with 15 points for the T-Birds.
McDaniel chipped in 12 points.
Fillyaw had eight points and 10 assists.
Cloud County finished 27 of 51 from the field for 53 percent and 15 of 28 from the line for 54 percent.
Rolle led Colby with 21 points.
Terry Starks scored 12 for the Trojans, and Jeremiah Ingram added 10.
Cloud County plays a Conference game at Pratt tonight.