Mountaineers start slow, muscle up in second half for win
BENNINGTON - After a tough stretch of non-conference games to start the season, the Southern Vermont College men's basketball team opened the Mountaineer Athletic Center against Johnson State College on Tuesday night.
The Badgers hung around for the first half, but the Mountaineers started to pull away in the second of a 95-84 victory.
"We didn't have energy, passion or attention to detail in the first half, we tried to make it a shootout and that's not SVC basketball," said coach Dan Engelstad. "We had to get back to basics, not get beat on the back door [cuts] and we did a good job to keep them out of the paint [in the second half]."
Three players - Rayshawn Taylor, Davante Jordan and Nate Goldsmith - combined for 63 of the team's points in the win. Taylor was the leading scorer with 25, 16 of that in the second half. Jordan added 20 on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor and Goldsmith had a double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds.
"We are asking them to do more this year, we really are going to depend on the starting five," Engelstad said. "Ray, Nate and Davante did a nice job of making the plays when we needed them to. Ray and Nate are hard to guard in space."
In the first half, SVC couldn't slow down the Johnson offense as the teams went back and forth. After Johnson took a 25-24 lead, Southern Vermont came right back with an 11-0 run, including three 3-pointers, one from Daemond Carter, another from Jordan and the last from Taylor to make it 33-24. Another bucket from Jordan gave the Mountaineers their largest lead of the first half at 35-25 with 5:42 left. But moments later, Johnson State went on an 8-0 run of its own, led by Demetrius Slade and Marqwon Wynn, the latter hitting a shot to pull within 37-34 and force Engelstad to take a timeout.
Johnson State went ahead briefly in the final minutes of the half after a 3-pointer by Donell Shaw from the left wing, but Jordan's steal and final second shot gave SVC a 47-43 lead at halftime.
In the second half, the Badgers tied the game twice early, including a three by Benjamin Holl to make it 54-54, but from there, the Mountaineer defense stiffened. In the next few minutes, SVC went on a 15-4 run, with Goldsmith hitting on a 3-point play and Taylor hitting a layup to extend the lead to 69-58.
On the night, SVC forced 17 turnovers, 11 in the second half.
"When we're getting turnovers I think that's when our offense is at its best," Engelstad said.
Moments later, a pair of buckets from Andrew Wimbush, his only points of the night, made it 76-62, but Johnson State kept clawing back, getting the deficit to 11 with about six minutes to go, but a 10-0 run from the Mountaineers sealed the deal, Taylor scoring the first eight of that final run.
The Mountaineers are 2-2 on the young season and host Castleton on Sunday at 3:30 at the Mountaineer Athletic Center.
"It's good for the guys to have a couple days off, enjoy Thanksgiving, but then we have two days to prep for a good Castleton team," Engelstad said. "The student body should be back from break and it should be another good Vermont battle."
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