It was a tale of two different halves for the No. 9-ranked Pima men’s basketball team on Wednesday night as the Aztecs had to push past a shooting slump in the first half to earn the 85-77 comeback victory over the Eastern Wyoming Lancers in the final game of the Aztec Classic.
The Aztec Classic featured five NJCAA Division I teams in addition to Pima, which was the only Division II team. The Aztecs went 2-1 in their bracket, beating the College of Southern Nevada, losing to Dawson (Mont.) Community College and then defeating Eastern Wyoming.
“We bring in good teams … My philosophy is we can only get better if we play higher competition,” said Pima coach Brian Peabody.
Leading the Aztecs in scoring were Jalen Johnson and Traivar Jackson with 19 points each. Jackson also earned a double-double with 10 rebounds. Johnson followed with eight.
Pima had a hard time finding and making easy shots early on in the game.
Eastern Wyoming jumped to a 20-11 lead with 12:35 left in the first half before an Aztec timeout was taken.
The first half ended with the Lancers up 34-28. Pima shot 29 percent from the field compared to Eastern Wyoming’s 42 percent. Pima also shot 10 percent from 3-point range and 63 percent from the free throw line.
Pima came out looking like a completely different team at the start of the second half. The Aztecs cut the deficit to 47-46 before Peabody called a timeout with 13:04 left.
Pima gained the 48-47 lead with 12:46 left and never trailed thereafter.
Daniel Moody and Crishon Dixon made both of their free throws with close to one minute remaining to secure the 85-77 victory.
In the second half, Pima shot 75 percent from the field, 42 percent from 3-point range and 70 percent at the free throw line.
Peabody stressed the importance of getting their forwards and centers included in the game to have an effective inside-outside scoring night with the guards.
“Our bigs are the most important piece of the puzzle. Our bigs were really effective in scoring tonight,” said Peabody. “We shot too many 3’s tonight; we’re not a good shooting team. I think we only took half the number of shots (beyond the arc) in the second half. We did a good job in getting the ball to the inside.”
The Aztecs (12-4) next play Jan. 5 against Scottsdale Community College at the West Campus Gym.