CONCORDIA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College men's basketball team was plagued by a slow start to Wednesday's KJCCC opener on Wednesday, falling 76-63 to Garden City Community College.
Cloud County (6-4 overall, 0-1 KJCCC) shot 30 percent (8-of-27) with 10 turnovers in the first half and Garden City (6-3 overall, 1-0 KJCCC) was able to take advantage in transition, building a 40-28 lead at the half with 10 fast break points and 53 percent (16-of-30) shooting.
"(Garden City) is not a fast-break team. That was uncharacteristic for Garden City to do so well in transition," said Cloud County head coach Jordan Altman. "That's not their game, so my thought was we gave them that opportunity with our lack of energy and focus at the beginning."
Sophomore forward Adetomi Ayilara helped keep the T-Birds within striking distance at the break. The 6'10 forward scored nine of his season-high 12 points in the first half, including the first eight points of the game for Cloud County, and tied for the team-high with seven rebounds.
"Nobody needed a confidence boost more than 'Tomi," Altman said. "He does so many great things for us, but his shot had not been falling. I credit him for getting in the gym and spending some time working on the fundamentals to improve his shot. We need him to continue to do that."
The T-Birds were down by as many as 21 points with 8:22 remaining but climbed back within 12 points with 3:25 remaining after redshirt freshman Nysir Scott splashed a 3-pointer.
Scott scored all 10 of his points in the second half, joining Ayilara and redshirt sophomore Alvin Thompson in double-figures.
Thompson scored a team-high 17 points, and Cloud County shot 44 percent (11-of-25), during its second-half comeback attempt.
"We knew Garden City was going to zone us probably the entire game. We told the guys that the zone was designed to take away our interior presence," Altman said. "We played right into that for a long time. Nobody was willing to attack the rim. Finally, we got Alvin to do it and it was like everyone was like 'Let's attack the rim.' But it was much too late at that point."
Cloud County freshman DJ Sims made his collegiate debut in Wednesday's contest, scoring eight points and adding two assists after spending the first nine games as a redshirt.
His move into the rotation became necessary due to an injury to freshman point guard Ty Duin in Saturday's game against Iowa Western.
Altman said he was encouraged by the showing from the Lawton, Oklahoma native.
"We really liked what we had with Ty (Duin) and Nysir and we initially wanted to redshirt DJ, but the truth of the matter is he's probably the best scorer out of the three," Altman said. "He can shoot it from outside, he can attack the rim. It'll be interesting to see as he finds his groove and confidence here just how much he can add to the team scoring wise because he's really effective at putting the ball in the hole."
The T-Birds will now look to regroup and use the next few days to prepare for a Seward County Community College team that is expected to be a tough out in the KJCCC this season. Tip-off will be at 8 p.m. Saturday in Liberal, Kansas.
"I think Seward is most people's, if not everyone's dark horse for a chance to win the league this year," Altman said. "They brought back almost their entire roster from last season. Everyone on that team has a ton of experience, they're not going to be intimidated or scared by the situation at all, and we have to get on a bus and drive for six hours. We really need to get some things done the next two days to mentally prepare ourselves for what will probably be the toughest 3-4 game stretches of the season."