SHERIDAN — The Sheridan College men’s basketball team couldn’t close the door on Utah State University-Eastern Saturday, and a couple of late 3s from the Golden Eagles downed the Generals in their first home loss of the season.
SC head coach Matt Hammer has emphasized coming out strong as of late, and the Generals took advantage of the energy in the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome at the start of Saturday’s game.
Sheridan controlled the tempo, getting to the rim on the way to a quick 11-3 lead to start the game. But it was the USU-Eastern shooting that kept the Golden Eagles in the game, as they went on a 17-8 run to take a 20-19 lead on a long 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Eastern shot 5 of 12 (42 percent) from deep in the first half.
Still, the Generals controlled the tempo, and five-straight points from Pablo Rivas late in the half stole the lead back for Sheridan.
After Rivas knocked down a jumper with 18 seconds to go, Hammer yelled from the bench, “One stop.” Sheridan got that stop on the final possession and secured a slight 37-34 halftime lead.
But the late stops didn’t come for the Generals in the second half, and it turned out to be the difference maker.
“No matter when our season ends, that last game, it’s going to come down to getting a stop at the defensive end when you’re dog tired,” Hammer said. “When your lungs are burning, when your legs are burning, you’ve got to dig down, and you’ve got to find a way to get a stop.”
It looked as if the Generals were going to run away with it after a brief dunk-fest brought the crowd to its feet. Rivas caught a lob on a fast break early in the second half, and Sebastian Ferenc threw down two dunks — including an and-1 — to hype up the Sheridan bench.
And while the Generals held the lead for most of the half, they could never extend it past three or four points. The Golden Eagles simply hung around.
Again, it was the solid shooting that kept USU-Eastern in the game.
They upped their long-range shooting to 71 percent in the second half, and back-to-back 3s in the closing minutes gave the Golden Eagles a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
USU-Eastern doesn’t shoot a lot of 3-pointers — they shot 19 Saturday compared to 26 from SC — but they get open looks. They move the ball to create an extremely balanced offense. Coming into Saturday’s game, all five Eastern starters were within nine 3-point attempts of each other.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a starting five that’s so balanced,” Hammer said about defending the USU shooters. “You just have to be solid with everybody. They really don’t have anyone that you can help off. If they’re able to break the defense down with some penetration and some ball movement, you’re in trouble if they’re knocking down shots like they were tonight.”
The Generals missed back-to-back layups late and ended up falling 82-76.
Rivas led the team with 24 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. PJ Savoy added 19 points and Celio Araujo finished with 11 assists.
The Generals will be back in action tonight when they take on Eastern Wyoming at the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome. They will travel to Williston, North Dakota, this weekend for two games against Williston State and Dawson Community College before taking a three-week break for the holidays.
“The mindset right now is we should be as eager as can be to get out there Monday and get this taste out of our mouth,” Hammer said after Saturday’s loss. “We’ve just got to forget about this one and come back Monday and try to get back on that winning track.”
Tonight’s game against Eastern Wyoming is set for a 5:30 p.m. tipoff.