ROCK SPRINGS — The Western Wyoming Community College Mustangs men’s basketball team got back in the win column, defeating the Utah State University Eastern Golden Eagles at home on Tuesday, 76-67.
The Mustangs improved to 5-1 this season after suffering their first loss on Saturday, Nov. 16, to Western Nebraska Community College.
“We talked about how good teams don’t lose two games in a row,” said head coach Steve Soza. “They find a way. We only had one practice since that loss and we talked about coming to work every single day and knowing the importance of capturing the day.”
The Mustangs captured an early lead over the Golden Eagles, beginning the game on a 10-2 run.
However, the Mustangs allowed the Golden Eagles to answer with a 9-0 run and take a 11-10 lead with 12 minutes and 23 seconds left in the first half.
It would be USU Eastern’s only lead of the game.
The Mustangs quickly responded and regained the lead with sophomore guard Jalen Blaize hitting a 3-pointer from the corner.
The teams exchanged baskets until Soza called a timeout with the game tied at 15 and about 10 minutes left in the half.
The Mustangs began to pull away, creating their largest lead with about two minutes remaining in the first half. Sophomore guard Trey Marble hit his second 3-pointer of the half to give the Mustangs a 38-27 advantage.
Marble finished with 13 points on 4 of 6 shooting from 3-point range.
The Golden Eagles wouldn’t go away, though. They trimmed the lead down to five points with about 20 seconds left.
With two seconds remaining, Blaize was fouled on a 3-point attempt at the top of the key and converted all three of his free throws to give the Mustangs a 42-34 advantage going into halftime.
Blaize finished with nine points, going 6 of 7 from the charity stripe.
The Mustangs struggled to get things going in the second half, turning the ball over several times in transition, which allowed the Golden Eagles to keep the game close.
“I think we might be one of the worst transition teams in America right now because, honestly, most of our turnovers were in transition with one-handed passes, jump passes or trying to make an extra play when there’s no driving angles,” Soza said.
“The stat sheet has us for 19 turnovers, and I can think of 10 of those were just unforced turnovers, trying to do too much in transition.”
With about 14 minutes to go, Soza called a timeout after the Golden Eagles trimmed the Mustang lead down to two points, 50-48.
Out of the timeout, the Mustangs extended their lead back up to seven, 60-53, which was led by freshman forward Dayne Prim, who had eight points in that three-minute stretch midway through the second half.
“Dayne is something special,” Soza said. “It’s wild because we only ran one or two plays for him in the game, but he finds a way to muscle his way in there to get rebounds and put things back up.
“He has a mentality of, ‘You shoot it and I’ll go get it,’ and that’s something coaches love to have.”
Prim led the game in scoring with 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season.
Whenever the Golden Eagles would get close, the ball seemed to wind up in the hands of freshman forward Trevor Trost, who was able to hit the timely 3-point shot.
Trost finished the game with 15 points and eight rebounds.
“Trevor, in my opinion, hasn’t even found his stride yet,” said Soza. “He’s a knockdown shooter. I think, as the season progresses, Trevor’s going to be a massive impact player with his shooting ability when he starts to feel comfortable.”
On Friday, the Mustangs traveled to McCook, Nebraska, to face the McCook Community College Indians at 6:30 p.m.
The Indians were 3-3 this season, losing their previous game to Colby Community College, 81-71.