By Eric Ingles
Democrat Sports Reporter
Poor second-half shooting helped sink the State Fair men’s basketball team in a 98-88 loss to Iowa Western on Tuesday night at the Fred E. Davis Multipurpose Center.
After hitting 19 of 35 shots from the field (54 percent) in the first half, the Roadrunners made 11 of 34 (32 percent) in the second half. State Fair hit 22 percent from 3-point range and 65 percent from the free throw line.
“I thought they did a much better job of guarding us the second half,” said State Fair coach Kevin Thomas. “They defended well. On our end, we settled for a lot of tough shots and were unable to get multiple drives in our offense.”
The shooting was especially cold down the stretch. After Dondre Alexander hit a drive and converted a 3-point play to make it 81-80 State Fair, the Roadrunners missed the next nine shots from the field until finally getting a layup from Deron Hill in the final minute, well after the game had been decided.
“What really killed us was on the glass, rebounding,” Thomas said. “We just got slaughtered on the glass in the second half. I thought in the first half, we did a pretty good job of keeping their bigs off the glass, and then in the second half, they just got anything they wanted. They shot it until they made it. That just killed us. We gave up way too many layups in the second half.”
Following Alexander’s 3-point play, the Reivers got offensive rebounds and second-chance points on the next three possessions. For the game, Iowa Western outrebounded State Fair 45-43, but that edge was 29-21 in the second half.
Iowa Western got 37 points from Darien Williams, who hit 15 of 28 from the field, including a drive to get the Reivers within a point with 16:08 to play and a 3-pointer to give Iowa Western an 89-84 lead late.
“He’s a tough matchup because of his size and his strength,” Thomas said. “He’s big, 6-8 and probably 230. With that size, we want to put Isaac (Freeman) or Jean-Louis (Wanya) on him, but then he’s versatile. He can put the ball on the floor; he can shoot the 3-pointer; he can post with his back to the basket. We don’t have anyone with that skill set that can match up with him.”
State Fair was led by Kedar Edwards with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Kevin Punter added 20 points. Alexander had 16, Hill had 11 and Freeman finished with 10.
In the first half, Iowa Western got the first two baskets to take a 5-0 lead, but State Fair answered with a 19-0 run. State Fair forced the Reivers to settle for 3-pointers, kept them from getting offensive rebounds and watched them miss six shots in a row.
On the other end, the Roadrunners hit on eight of the next nine possessions, including a 3-point play by Edwards, 3-pointers by Punter and Hill, and an Alexander steal which fed a Punter-to-Edwards alley-oop.
“I thought we did a good job of sharing the ball,” Thomas said. “We had 14 assists in the first half, which is great. We finished with 16, so we had two assists in the second half. That’s kind of the tale of two halves. We were forcing shots. We weren’t finding the open guy.”
Iowa Western chipped away at the lead, getting 3-pointers from Dinjiyl Walker and Shakir Brown on back-to-back trips, followed by a Williams basket in the paint to cut the lead to 35-33. State Fair followed that with back-to-back 3-pointers from Edwards. The lead was back to 10 when Edwards split the defense and drove the lane for a layup, then got a steal on the ensuing possession and a fast-break dunk. State Fair led 49-38 at halftime.
That lead evaporated early in the second half. Iowa Western got three quick baskets by Deshawn Munson to cut the lead to 51-44. The Reivers tied the game with 15:08 left on a pair of free throws to make it 52-52.
“We came out and were sloppy and turned it over,” Thomas said. “We didn’t take care of the ball and gave up easy buckets, and they kind of started making some shots, got some confidence, and we were in a dogfight the rest of the game.”
After Iowa Western tied the game, the teams traded baskets and short runs until State Fair’s shots stopped falling late in the half.
The Roadrunners will travel to the John Logan Classic to face Southeastern Illinois at 5 p.m. Dec. 14 and John Logan \ at 1 p.m. Dec. 15.