It took, oh, about 5 seconds for North Idaho College to show it is stocked with athleticism.
That was evident when 6-foot-2 Jovann Johnson soared to retrieve Nathaniel Bailey’s lob pass and dunk the basketball.
“We just wanted to get started off right,” NIC coach Hugh Watson said of the planned play.
NIC displayed loads of talent in an often ragged, often entertaining 105-74 season-opening victory over outmatched Lethbridge Saturday afternoon in Christianson Gym.
“Kind of typical of a first game,” Watson said. “We’ve got so much to refine.”
At first glance, the Cardinals are taller and possibly deeper and quicker than last year’s club, which finished fourth at the national tournament.
Saturday, six Cardinals reached double figures in scoring, led by backup forward Brad Fields with 18 points and Johnson with 16. Watson spread the minutes around as the Cardinals sprinted in front 50-27 at half.
Lethbridge (6-2), from Alberta, led only once, at 9-7. About that time, the Kodiaks added an interesting sidelight to the game: Would they have more turnovers than points?
Because NIC’s full-court pressure was too much for Kodiaks, it was close for a while. In fact, Lethbridge coughed up 29 turnovers in the first half and scored 27 points.
But the Kodiaks cleaned up their ball-handling, partly because NIC turned off the defensive heat, and gamely battled through the second half, keeping the margin in the 30s most of the time. They still finished with 41 turnovers.
“NIC is very powerful,” Lethbridge coach Carlos Maffia said. “The most positive characteristic of their club is you don’t know where the attack is coming from.”
The Cardinals showed little dropoff from the first team to the second. Fields, NIC’s first sub, scored eight points in his first 3 minutes.
Nick Irvin came off the bench to add eight points and five dazzling assists. At one point, he made a difficult bank shot while being fouled and punctuated the play with a brief dance, sort of a shake, really.
He was on the bench seconds later. “That shake,” Watson said, shaking his head.
Watson will emphasize less shaking and more rebounding and defense as the Cards prepare to face Aquinas, of Nashville, Tenn., next Friday at a tournament in Owensboro, Kent.
NIC 105, Lethbridge 74
Lethbridge (6-2) - Martin 1-2 0-1 2, Benjamin 3-4 2-5 8, Izsak 2-5 1-4 5, Heggie 2-5 3-5 8, Spiess 0-1 0-0 0, Knopp 5-7 2-2 12, McArthur 5-12 2-2 16, Weasel Head 7-9 1-2 17, Rudolph 2-8 0-0 4, Van Land 0-4 2-2 2. Totals 27-57 13-23 74.
North Idaho (1-0) - Fields 8-10 2-2 18, Johnson 5-9 6-7 16, Bailey 4-8 2-2 10, Goodman 4-13 0-0 11, Brosseau 1-5 2-2 4, Houston 5-8 1-3 11, Clay 2-4 0-0 4, Irvin 3-6 1-1 8, Watson 0-6 6-6 6, Fisher 2-4 6-9 10, Ryan 2-6 2-2 6. Totals 36-79 28-33 105.
Halftime - NIC 50, Lethbridge 27. 3-point goals - Lethbridge 7-15 (Heggie 1-1, McArthur 4-8, Head 2-4, Rudolph 0-2), NIC 5-21 (Goodman 3-9, Bailey 1-3, Irvin 1-3, Clay 0-1, Johnson 0-1, Watson 0-4). Total fouls - Lethbridge 26, NIC 21. Technical fouls - Fields. Fouled out - Van Land. Rebounds - Lethbridge 39 (Van Land 8), NIC 38 (Houston 9). Assists - Lethbridge 18 (Weasel Head 6).
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