Coffeyville coach Jay Herkelman had seen this scenario a few times before in his previous games at the NJCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.
The opposition races out of the gate to a big lead, and his team is staring up at wide margin by halftime.
In other years, his Red Ravens put the clamps on and — slowly but surely — elbowed their way back into the game.
But that never happened on Wednesday afternoon at the Sports Arena. Instead, seventh-seeded East Georgia State sprinted to a sizeable lead in the first half and took the fight out of Coffeyville early in the second during a 79-47 rout.
“We’ve had other teams get down like that and you just have to settle down and get back to what you do and chip away at the lead,” Herkelman said. “Eventually, hopefully, you’re going to make some shots. Today, we weren’t able to do that in either half.”
The Ravens (32-3) hit fewer than 10 field goals in each half while shooting at a 21.2 percent (14 of 66).
East Georgia (31-2), on the other hand, shot lights out., making 29 of 55 shots, 9 of 20 three-point tries. East Georgia will play unbeaten Spartanburg Methodist (33-0) in the quarterfinals.
Three-pointers from Larry Bullock and Tre’ Hagood ignited the Bobcats’ game-opening 13-0 run that took less than four minutes. By the midway point of the first half they led 21-6, and that ballooned to a 20-point lead, 35-15, six minutes later when Jon Blair finished off a three-point play.
On the other end, Coffeyville’s woeful offense and rebounding struggles played into East Georgia’s hands.
“We’ve got some really good offensive players that make offense easier,” EGSC coach Neil Bailey said. “We don’t always have to be perfect on offense to score but we win because we play good pressure defense.”
And without enough baskets to break the Bobcats’ pressure, Coffeyville found itself at the bottom of an increasingly large deficit.
“You miss shots like that – open shots that we had – you start to get frustrated and it starts to take you out of your game,” said Coffeyville guard Earl Peterson, whose six points were half of his average output. “When you get down like that, you try to make shots and they’re not falling, it just takes your head out of the game.”
East Georgia, playing its first game in the tournament since arriving in Hutchinson on Sunday, didn’t look like a team out of practice.
“It was a long process, watching and seeing everybody else play,” Bobcat forward DJ Felder said. “It was kind of getting on my nerves just sitting at the hotel and going to practice, eating, going home, laying down, going to sleep. I was getting tired of that routine. When we got on the court, I felt like I was at home again. We played our game.”
After trading baskets with the Ravens to start the second half, the Bobcats started firing on all cylinders. While Coffeyville endured a scoring drought of more than seven minutes, East Georgia went on a 15-0 run and built the 30-point margin it used to coast to the finish line.
“We just like to get ahead soon and come out of halftime, the first five minutes, put our foot on the pedal and close the game right there,” said Hagood, who finished with 17 points, seven rebounds, six assists and four steals.
Hagood engineered the Bobcats’ efficient transition game. The 6-foot-2 sophomore helped East Georgia capitalize on its 48-39 edge in rebounding by pushing the tempo in the full court.
Coffeyville, too, tried its hand at the full-court press but its offensive troubles sabotaged its effectivness.
“We had good transition but we weren’t finishing the layups and everything we shot was rimming out,” said Coffeyville forward Montel James, who led the Ravens with 12 points and nine rebounds. “Once we missed, (their) offense was already down the court.”
A day after watching Northwest Florida State come all the way back from a 20-point deficit to edge 88-87 New Mexico Junior College in overtime, Herkelman told his team they could get back into the game despite trailing 38-19 at halftime.
“Our whole halftime conversation was about chipping away and trying to win the first five minutes and start to feel good about ourselves,” Herkleman said. “I referenced the Northwest Florida game yesterday that it’s never over, but we could never get that spark, something to just energize us to try to change the momentum of the game.”
Halftime score: East Georgia 38-19. 3-point goals: East Georgia 9-20 (Johnson 4-7, Bullock 2-3, Felder 2-3, Byrd 1-4, Reid 0-2, Mikell 0-1), Coffeyville 3-25 (Martin 2-5, Craig 1-6, Peterson 0-7, Britt 0-5, Ja. Wilson 0-1, Je. Wilson 0-1). Rebounds: East Georgia 48 (Felder 11), Coffeyville 39 (James 9). Assists: East Georgia 18 (Hagood 6), Coffeyville 5 (Craig 2). Turnovers: East Georgia 19, Coffeyville 13. Total fouls: East Georgia 21, Coffeyville 13. Fouled out: None.