The 15th-ranked North Idaho College men’s basketball team is riding a 10-game winning streak, during which the team earned some hardware in the Bigfoot/Cardinal Classic at NIC about a week ago.
Keon Lewis scored 21 points for the Cardinals in a 96-65 win against the Columbia Basin Hawks Wednesday night.
Jordan McCloud had 15 points and 12 rebounds for NIC (12-1), which travels to Colorado Northwestern Thursday.
Three days earlier, the Cardinals beat Green River Community College of Auburn, Wash., 109-56 in the championship game of the Bigfoot/Cardinal Classic at Rolly Williams Court.
“We play at a fast pace and it kind of wears teams down,” said NIC head coach Jared Phay. “For them (Green River), when their legs get a little bit tired it’s hard to shoot the ball as good. So I think we did that to them tonight.”
Green River knocked down eight three-pointers in the first half, which helped them stay ahead of NIC at the start. But the Gators made four of their 15 three-point shot attempts in the second half.
The Cardinals’ defensive pressure and height advantage was showcased as the game wore on.
NIC forced 21 turnovers, had 18 steals and outrebounded the Gators 68-19.
“We’re just long and athletic and they just weren’t able to beat our press, so we just kept on doing it really well,” said NIC forward James Webb III, who scored 13 points, one of six Cardinals who scored in double figures.
Webb was named an all-tournament selection along with teammates Jalil Abdul-Bassit and Chris Sarbaugh, who won tournament MVP.
NIC opened up the second half on a 16-0 scoring run to extend their lead to 59-34.
The Cardinals outscored Green River 66-22 in the second half.
“We’re unselfish,” Sarbaugh said. “We don’t care who scores. We just want to win.”
NIC beat Yakima Community College 113-75 Saturday, Dec. 1 in the second round of the tournament.
NIC shot 68 percent from the floor, 60 percent from the three-point line and 80 percent from the free-throw line.
Lewis finished with 23 points and Webb had 20 points and five blocked shots.
“Our height advantage helped us a lot with the rebounds,” Phay said. “We knew Yakima would make it a fast pace, high-scoring game. We weren’t aggressive enough in the first half, but the second we were.”
In the first round of the tournament on Nov. 30, NIC defeated Edmonds Community College of Lynnwood, Wash.
Abdul-Bassit had a game-high 23 points.
NIC was defeating Edmonds 28-24 halfway through the first half by holding Edmonds to seven of 30 shooting from the field. NIC finished the game 37 of 62 from the field (60 percent).
“We have a lot of depth and can use it, but I think we need to stay unselfish and it’ll work for us,” Phay said.
A few days earlier, NIC defeated the Gonzaga club team 108-52 at Rolly Williams Court.
NIC won its previous matchup with Gonzaga 80-54 in Coeur d’Alene Nov. 13.
“We talk about getting better every game,” Phay said. “We’ve played this team before and if you look at the score it definitely shows improvement.”
Mikey Hope scored 17 points for the Cardinals.
“We had a goal to keep them under 50 points, and even though we didn’t reach that goal we are improving,” McCloud said.
NIC triumphed over Columbia Basin Community College 87-52 Nov. 20 at Rolly Williams Court.
Hope finished with 20 points.