Nevada Daily Mail
"I just didn't feel like that we were quite where we would like to be coming into the ballgame tonight. That's nobody's fault, it was just the situation we were dealt."
The Nevada Tigers varsity basketball team and head coach John McNeley got back onto the floor Thursday night at Wynn Gymnasium against the Tigers of Carthage after having been out of competition for a full two weeks. The rust left by that layoff wasn't hard to see right from the outset of the contest as the Tigers struggled in a number of areas, ultimately giving Carthage a 63-55 victory.
"We played solid at times, played some good stretches," McNeley said. "(We) certainly didn't play 32 minutes like we would have liked to."
McNeley's squad was last on the floor on Dec. 20, when Nevada (4-5) hosted the Cubs of Monett in a contest that was rescheduled from the beginning of the season before Thanksgiving. In that contest, just about everything went right for Nevada, allowing McNeley's squad to cruise to a 60-27 victory.
The turnaround between that contest and Thursday night's matchup couldn't have been more pronounced as Carthage came into the night with a decided advantage that showed early and became even more obvious as the game progressed. That advantage was simple: experience.
"I thought that it was evident that they have played steadily over the break," McNeley said. "They played four times, maybe even a fifth time since we played our last ballgame."
Head coach Steve Ray's Carthage Tigers (4-9) used the advantage afforded to them by those extra games over the holiday break to near-perfection throughout the contest, but McNeley's squad still stayed in it early. Neither team was really able to gain any kind of significant advantage and Nevada ultimately went from a 14-14 tie at the end of the opening period to a one-point lead at halftime, 29-28.
But that was where things started to fall apart.
The Tigers struggled through the entire game on the defensive boards, allowing Carthage two or three shots nearly every trip they took down the floor. As fatigue set in and Nevada's offense began to sputter, Carthage took full advantage of those struggles and began to pull away as the contest progressed into the second half.
"We did not block out well and that was a factor in the ballgame. That's something that you can control, but I also think it ties back into the fact that we haven't had game-like repetition of late," McNeley said, pointing out that not only did his squad fail to block out, but didn't always make an attempt at it. "You can't always successfully block out, but you can certainly make the effort to attempt to successfully block out every time."
As he has done all year long, Silas Smith attempted to carry the Tigers' entire offense on his shoulders once again Thursday and it worked through the first half. By the time all was said and done, Smith came up just two points short of his career high as he finished with 34 of Nevada's 55 points, but it simply wasn't enough.
"He probably had to do more than what we would have liked to have him do. We always talk about being hard to guard and we went through stretches tonight where we weren't very hard to guard. At times, we do a little spectating," McNeley said of the 6-foot-2-inch senior. "Silas creates and some of the best shots come off of Silas' creation. But if you don't put yourself in a position to play off of it, then you become a little stagnant and I thought, at times, we were stagnant offensively."
That offensive stagnancy was all Carthage needed as they took full advantage of what appeared to be a simple case of rust on the part of Nevada late in the contest and pulled away, taking the victory by a final score of 63-55.
"I thought that was a factor, particularly evident coming down the end stretch," McNeley said of Carthage's playing time advantage. "I thought they were a little bit fresher than we were and we did a couple silly things that, I think, if we had had ballgames, recent ballgames, I would say, those are decisions that we might not have made."
Smith was the only player for Nevada in double figures and a total of five of McNeley's Tigers got into the scoring column. By contrast, eight Carthage players scored, led by double-figure point totals from three different players.
Sophomore Jaryd Coss led the offensive effort for Carthage with 15 points, followed closely by Nathan Reid with 14. Dawson Allmoslecher joined Coss and Reid in double figures as he finished the night with 11.
Next on the schedule for the Tigers is Tuesday, when they host the St. Mary's Colgan Panthers in a varsity/JV doubleheader at 6 p.m.
"You get from Colgan what you get from them every year. I mean, they don't change anything in terms of their style of play," McNeley said. "Your success against Colgan is going to be based on how well you tolerate what they do, so we're going to have to handle the basketball."