Heading into the season, Cloud County Community College coach Chad Eshbaugh believed balance was going to be strength for the Thunderbirds, and in the season opener it was.
Six players scored in double figures as the Thunderbirds cruised to a 99-59 victory over the Doane College junior varsity Friday night in Bryant Gymnasium.
Leading returning scorer Marvin Smith hit five of seven field goal attempts and five of eight free throws in scoring 16 points for Cloud County. He also had nine rebounds.
Freshman point guard Lorenzo Dillard was 7 of 12 from the floor and two of five from the line, and also had 16 points.
Assane Diop, a 6-9 redshirt freshman, connected on five of six shots from the field including two of three three-point attempts, in scoring 15 points.
Sophomore Clint Glaser came off the bench to score 10 points. He was four of four from the floor and made both three-point attempts.
Shaun Stewart and Derek Henry chipped in 10 points each.
“Everybody played at least eight minutes, or close to it and we had six guys in double figures,” Cloud County coach Chad Eshbaugh said, “It was nice to see we do have the ability to score the basketball with different players.”
With Diop scoring the first four points, Cloud County never trailed in the game.
The T-Birds had a slim 10-7 lead when constant whistles from the officials bogged things down.
Cloud County went to the free throw line 26 times in just over nine minutes of play.
“A 100 percent of that was result of the rule change,” Eshbaugh said, “It is going to make officials, coaches and team have to adjust.”
The new rule further limits the amount of contact between a defensive player and an offensive player.
The T-Birds were able to knock down just 13 of those 26 attempts, and finished just 24 of 45 from the line for 53 percent.
“If you are going to get to the free throw line, which is going to be everybody’s goal, you have to shoot a high percentage and we didn’t do that.”
Cloud County led just 17-14 when it went on a 15-1 spurt to open up a 32-15 advantage.
Doane outscored the T-Birds 3-1 from the free throw line in a span of 19 seconds to make it a 33-18 game.
Freshman Creighton Brinker scored inside to start an offensive surge by the T-Birds.
Layups by Stewart and Henry and a three by Diop pushed the lead to 42-18.
Dugan Werner scored on a drive for Doane to make it a 42-20 game.
Glaser connected on consecutive threes, Smith scored inside and 24 seconds later hit a three and Kamai Shasi made two free throws to give Cloud County a 55-20 halftime advantage.
“The game always looks better when you are making shots. I thought we shot the basketball well,” Eshbaugh said, “That is how the game is going to be. You are going to get some small stretches of flow.”
Getting two field goals by Dillard and another three by Diop, the T-Birds scored the first 11 points of the second half to extend the lead to 66-20.
After Doane went one of two from the line, Dillard scored on a drive and Stewart got a steal and a layup, and Cloud County led 70-21.
The Tigers were able to outscore the T-Birds 18-8 over the next five minutes, but still trailed, 78-39.
“I didn’t think we were very good defensively, especially in some areas we have been spending some time on in practice. The way we have played in the past is different from the way we have to play now,” Eshbaugh said.
Eshbaugh was able to get all 13 players involved as the T-Birds coasted to the win, and 12 of them scored.
Cloud County finished 34 of 62 from the field for 55 percent and made 8 of 20 threes for 40 percent.
“I thought offensively we did a good job of sharing the ball,” Eshbaugh said.
Doane hit 21 of 60 field goal attempts for 35 percent, and was 7 of 28 from three-point range for 25 percent.
The Tigers were 10 of 19 from the line for 53 percent.
Cloud County will host Central (Neb.) Community College at 7:00 Tuesday night.