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Cards’ Guards Step Up Nic Takes Lead In Tight Swac Race

Todd Myles sauntered over to the scorer’s table in the closing seconds of North Idaho College’s 80-75 win and asked, “Who’s got the best guards?”

The NIC guard had worked himself into a lather over College of Eastern Utah basketball coach Guy Beach’s pregame statement that CEU had the best backcourt in the Scenic West Athletic Conference.

The debate likely will go on, but NIC’s backcourt stated its case on Thursday night.

Paced by Andre McKanstry’s 21 points, NIC’s three guards produced 40 points, 15 assists and six turnovers.

CEU’s threesome of Noel Jackson (15 points), Mitchell Johnson and Eddie Gill combined for 17 points, seven assists and eight turnovers.

“I don’t disrespect anybody’s program,” said Myles, who cemented the win by hitting 4 of 5 free throws in the final 70 seconds to fend off a CEU rally. “But that (Beach’s statement) got me mad.”

NIC, meanwhile, got even after CEU had topped the Cardinals last month. NIC (20-3 overall, 11-3 SWAC) leapfrogged past CEU (21-4, 10-3) into first place in the conference.

“At our place, it was a little bit different,” said Beach, admitting NIC’s guards got the better of it. “All of our guys didn’t come out to play.”

NIC needed the backcourt advantage because CEU dominated in the paint. Golden Eagles center K’Zell Wesson, 6-foot-7 and roughly the size of a station wagon, had 23 points and 22 rebounds. CEU outrebounded NIC 46-30.

“They hurt us inside at their place like crazy,” NIC coach Hugh Watson said. “We did a better job this time. I don’t know if we’ll ever match up inside with them.”

The undaunted Beach confidently made a prediction. “I think you’re going to see us two (NIC and CEU) on Saturday, March 8th” playing for the Region 18 Tournament title.

That’d be worth the price of admission. Thursday’s game was, though a crowd of only 1,151 showed to watch 16th-ranked NIC and 14th-rated CEU. There were acrobatic soaring dunks and slick, hanging layups - and that was just in warmups.

Both coaches were surprised by the fan shortage. “We only had about 800 when we played at our place,” Beach said.

“This place outta be packed,” Watson said. “We’re fighting for first place. I think we’re putting a pretty good brand of ball out here.”

NIC got started early, building leads of 19-6 and 36-18 before the Eagles pulled within 41-29 at the half.

The Cards toyed with a blowout in the second half, but CEU stubbornly hung close. Alu Williams’ dunk trimmed NIC’s lead to 63-57 with 7:30 left and his three-point play made it 73-70 before Myles’ clinching free throws. Myles said he shot 200 free throws earlier Thursday because he’d been struggling at the stripe.

NIC’s Leonard Myles, who had three teeth knocked out after a collision with cousin Todd’s head last week in a game, suffered a sizable gash near his eye, but still managed 14 points and 5 rebounds. Shawn Myrick added six assists, several that were highlight-reel material.

Chris Harrison and Cameron Banks scrapped inside for a combined 20 points and 15 rebounds to help offset Wesson’s damage.

“I knew they were going to make a run at us,” Watson said. “They’ve got a great club. I was just hoping we could hang on.”

North Idaho 80, Eastern Utah 75

EASTERN UTAH (21-4, 10-3) - Wesson 10-21 3-6 23, Udoka 1-7 1-4 3, Arceneaux 7-17 1-1 15, Johnson 0-4 0-0 0, Gill 1-3 0-0 2, Williams 6-9 5-6 17, Jackson 5-11 5-7 15. Totals 30-72 15-24 75.

NORTH IDAHO (20-3, 11-3) - Myrick 2-6 3-6 7, Johnson 1-1 1-1 3, T. Myles 3-10 6-7 12, Houston 1-2 1-3 3, McKanstry 10-16 1-1 21, Harrison 2-6 5-6 10, Banks 5-9 0-0 10, Ryan 0-0 0-0 0, L. Myles 6-14 2-2 14. Totals 30-64 19-26 80.

Half -NIC 41, CEU 29. 3-point goals - CEU 0-6 (Udoka 0-2, Arceneaux 0-1, Johnson 0-3), NIC 1-11 (Myrick 0-4, T. Myles 0-1, McKanstry 0-1, Harrison 1-3, L. Myles 0-2). Total fouls - CEU 18, NIC 21. Technical fouls - Wesson, Harrison. Fouled out - L. Myles. Rebounds - CEU 46 (Wesson 22), NIC 30 (Harrison 11). Assists - CEU 16 (Arceneaux, Johnson each 4), NIC 17 (T. Myles 7). Attendance - 1,151.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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