ROCKVILLE — What a difference 20 minutes makes.
The Solano Community College men’s basketball team opened a 43-37 lead over Merritt at halftime but couldn’t make it hold up in a 93-81 Bay Valley Conference loss, Thursday, at Solano Gym.
“I think in the first half, we shot the ball a lot better,” SCC coach John Nagle said. “In the second half, their athleticism was evident, but it didn’t bother us too much. We gave up a lot of easy offensive rebound put-backs, gave them some easy scoring opportunities.
“And they put some pressure on us. They were getting free throws, layups and offensive put-backs. And then we started missing easy ones and were shooting poorly. They’re good for a reason. I was proud of the guys in the first half. In the second half, we needed to string some more possessions together and we didn’t.”
SCC then took control, scoring 16 of the next 24 points to grab a 23-18 advantage halfway through the opening 20 minutes.
The Thunderbirds cut the lead to 25-23 after a 3-pointer and a reverse layup, but the Falcons opened a 32-25 lead after two baskets by Tahron Morrison – one a 3-pointer of his own – and a basket in the lane by Ryan Sondhi.
SCC matched its biggest lead of the night at 11 (41-30) after Sondhi made two free throws, but Merritt scored the next seven of the half’s final nine points to cut the lead to 43-37 at the break..
The Falcons scored six of the first eight points of the second 20 minutes – all by Daniel Badger – but the T-Birds scored nine unanswered points to take a 50-49 lead with 15:15 left on the clock.
Neither team held more than a two-point lead until the 12:09 mark when Merritt led 59-56. Donovan Smith tried to keep Solano in the game, making two 3-pointers – the last cutting the lead to 63-62, but Merritt scored 11 of the next 15 points to lead 74-65 with 7:35 to play.
After two free throws by Smith made the score 76-71 with 5:03 left, the Falcons never got closer than five points the rest of the way.
Smith and Morrison each scored 13 to lead the Falcons, while Sondhi and Jamarae Moss each scored 12.
After the loss, Nagle said he saw some things he thinks his team needs to work on.
“We just have to be tougher every possession,” the coach said. “Defensively, we have to keep (teams) off the glass. We have to play a little bit harder in that regard. But there were some good things, but definitely some things to take back to the lab and work on.”
Reach Brian Arnold at 427-6969 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/barnolddr.