LARAMIE, Wyo. — Southern was simply zoned out Thursday.
On the second day of the Global Sports Hoops Showcase at the University of Wyoming, North Carolina Central used several combinations of zone defenses — both full-court and half-court — to keep the Jaguars off balance in a 59-55 win.
Both teams are 1-1 after two days of the event. Southern beat South Dakota 83-79 on Wednesday, and N.C. Central lost 73-60 to host Wyoming. The Jaguars wrap up the round-robin tournament at 9 p.m. Friday against the hosts.
A day after scoring 83 points and never trailing against South Dakota, Southern (1-3) again got off to a good start, taking a 20-12 lead 11 minutes in. But the Eagles (2-2) outscored Southern 21-8 in the final nine minutes for a 33-28 halftime lead.
N.C. Central quickly pushed the lead to 10 points in the second half and never led by fewer than five points until the final seconds. A Derick Beltran hoop cut the Eagles’ lead to 57-55 with 25 seconds left. But N.C. Central’s Ray Willis made two free throws with 23.2 seconds to go, and the Jaguars didn’t score again.
“We just couldn’t make that one big run,” Southern coach Roman Banks said. “I played some guys tonight to see what they could do, trying to feel it out for the future. I had some guys who were tired tonight, and they were a good, athletic team. We need a couple more bodies, and hopefully we’ll get that and cut back on some of these guys’ minutes and hopefully finish a ballgame.”
Banks said one of those bodies would be 6-foot-10 senior Brandon Moore, who is out of action with an injury.
“What I saw from (N.C. Central on Wednesday night) is their physicality, and we just don’t have that yet,” Banks said. “We’ll get another guy back here shortly with Brandon.”
Junior Malcolm Miller did his best to keep the Jaguars in the game. Coming off the bench, he scored a season-high 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-6 on 3-pointers.
Javan Mitchell added 14 points for the Jaguars, while Beltran had 10 points and nine rebounds.
Thursday marked the first game this season that Mitchell didn’t foul out. Banks played all 10 players who dressed, with eight seeing at least 12 minutes on the court.
“It’s good right now because I’m getting to see what guys can do what,” Banks said. “You got a Malcolm Miller, and each game he’s gotten better. That’s good because we’re really depending on him.”
Ray Willis led all scorers with 20 points, and he added nine rebounds for N.C. Central. Stanton Kidd had 13 points and 13 rebounds.
N.C. Central outrebounded smaller Southern 39-30 and outscored the Jaguars 28-18 in the paint. NCC also outscored Southern 25-14 from the free throw line while taking 11 more attempts.
Banks said he knows his young, thin squad could have its hands full Friday night against the host Cowboys.
“I got a big question mark for tomorrow,” he said. “I don’t know how we’re going to survive (the game) size-wise. I just don’t want to physically get beat down. I’ve got to go tonight and stay up and watch a lot of tape and see what we can do.”