PRATT, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College men's basketball team moved to 2-0 on the young season with an 88-59 win over Next Level Hoops Academy on Day One of 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.
The T-Birds will now turn their attention toward Sunday's matchup against Kansas Wesleyan University JV to conclude the Pratt Classic. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m.