Merced College men run out of steam

slynch@mercedsunstar.comDecember 4, 2012 

For 20 minutes a shorthanded Merced College men's basketball team gave the top-ranked team in California fits.

The Blue Devils sprinted back defensively to deny fastbreak points, and clogged the middle with a sagging zone to force San Francisco City College into shots from the perimeter.

MC patiently worked the ball around offensively, waiting for open looks and consistently knocking them down.

The formula worked, at least for a while.

The Blue Devils kept things competitive early on, but were worn down by the more talented Rams in the second half. San Francisco opened the second half with a 16-2 run and MC never threatened again in a 93-50 loss in the first round of the 75th annual MJC Tournament on Tuesday afternoon.

The Blue Devils will play Yuba City College at 8 a.m. on Thursday in the consolation bracket.

"I thought we did a great job in the first half," MC head coach Bill Russell said. "Both teams were breathing hard. We did a good job denying them on their lobs and forcing them to knock down shots from the outside. And offensively we shot the ball very well.

"I thought the kids had a great attitude. I think we just ran out of gas in the second half."

Despite giving away size and athleticism, MC (0-8) took the court with confidence. The Blue Devils even held an early 12-11 lead thanks in part to 14 first-half points from Gurpreet Sangha.

That prompted Rams head coach Justin Labagh to burn an early timeout. After a profanity-laced pep talk, San Francisco (8-0) upped its defensive intensity and went on a 14-2 run to build a 27-14 lead.

MC didn't fold, answering with a 10-2 run of its own to trim the lead to 29-24 with 6:16 to go in the half.

It was as close as the Blue Devils would get.

The Rams pushed their lead to 45-33 at the half. MC didn't have the legs for another run in the second half.

San Francisco had the luxury of running out two units of five players that would all likely start for Merced. They outscored the Blue Devils 48-17 in the second half.

"We came out with a lot of intensity on defense," Snagha said. "We wanted to make them work for their points. But their man-to-man defense makes you use a lot of energy too.

"It made us kind of run out of gas in the second half. We started getting lazy and they got lots of offensive rebounds and easy putbacks."

The Blue Devils lost their shooting legs as well. After shooting 50 percent from the field in the first half, MC hit just seven shots in the second half.

Dulani Robinson led all scorers with 19 points. The Rams' Gabriel Aguirre and Bryan McGriff chipped in 18 and 17 points.

LeBrandon Williams and David Sandoval each finished with eight points to go along with Sangha's 14.

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