By BRETT MARSHALL
In the Garden City Buffaloes' only previous loss heading into Tuesday's Western Athletic Conference opener at home against Dodge City, coach Jacy Holloway had seen his team's interior defense give up basket after basket after basket inside the free throw lane.
Unfortunately for Holloway and the Buffs, the Red Demons created a near replica of Pueblo East's offense, scoring 15 of their 16 field goals either on layups or inside that lane.
The Buffs didn't have an answer on their offensive end of the floor and the result was a surprising 50-35 setback at the hands of the No. 10-ranked Class 6A team in the state at the New Garden.
It wasn't the way Holloway wanted to see his team head into a two-plus week break from action over the holidays, but the stinging loss will certainly give him plenty to work on with his team while they wait to return to action on Jan. 4, when they host Great Bend.
"We've got to figure out defensively how to keep teams out of the paint," Holloway said. "It's pretty clear that when a team gets that many inside (shots), you've got to do a better job, and we didn't do that tonight. I imagine it (shot chart) will show a lot of the same things that we saw against Pueblo East (73-51 loss)."
The loss dropped the Buffs to 4-2 overall and 0-1 to start the WAC portion of their schedule. It was their first home loss after three wins in the Southwest Classic, and the 10-day layoff apparently did them no favors.
"They ran what we thought they'd run (2-3 zone), and eventually they forced us into some shots that weren't the best," Holloway said of Dodge City. "Our movement wasn't what you'd want. We got some inside looks at times, but we didn't screen as well as we wanted. I didn't think we were patient enough."
Combine the hot-shooting of the Red Demons (4-1, 1-0) with the icy touch of the Buffs, and the result was a 15-point pasting after the game had been close throughout the first half.
The Buffs were still within range after three periods, trailing by only five, 33-28.
"We were still in it then," Holloway said. "For some reason we were flat at times in the second half and I thought that our offense dictated the way our defense played, and we really want the defense to dictate the way the offense plays."
In this game, the shooting statistics told much of the story.
Dodge City finished by hitting 16-of-31 field goals (51.6 percent) and were 17-of-24 from the free throw line (70.8 percent).
The Buffs, meanwhile, couldn't buy a basket from anywhere, including close-range shots. They were 15-of-53 (28.3 percent) overall, and bricked behind the 3-point arc to the tune of 2-of-16 (12.5 percent).
"We'd move the ball and would have a good shot, but then we'd hesitate and then Dodge would guard and make it a tough shot," Holloway said. "I really thought we had done a good job of being prepared for the game, but obviously we didn't execute like we had practiced."
When Emilio Parr made 1-of-2 free throws at the 5:34 mark of the fourth, the Buffs were still down by just six, 35-29. But then things unraveled.
A 9-0 Dodge City run that came off seven free throws and a layup stretched the Demons' lead to 44-29 with 3:23 remaining.
For the first time all season, the Buffs failed to have a player score in double figures. Tristan Nanninga topped the scoring for Garden with just eight points, Bo Banner added seven, and Austin Terpstra and Caleb Tramp had six each. Dodge City got double-digit scoring from Matt Goedeken and Jace Larson with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
The only area where the Buffs out-performed their rivals was in turnovers, committing just seven to 12 for the Demons.
It was no surprise the game got off to a slow start and was low-scoring — that's what Dodge City does best.
The Demons, with crafty coach Dennis Hamilton directing traffic, switched between a 2-3 and 3-2 zone that prevented the Buffs from getting the ball inside.
The Buffs fell behind early, 10-6, and trailed 12-11 after the opening eight minutes, thanks mainly to a pair of 3-point bank shots by Nanninga.
It was much the same in the second period, as the teams traded buckets, the lead changing hands four times, with two ties. Dodge, however, broke the final tie when Zach Norton hit a layup on a slashing drive to the bucket with 1:17 left before intermission.
Garden had the ball at the end of the quarter, but was unable to get a shot off before the buzzer sounded, Dodge leading by a pair, 21-19.
In the end, Holloway said his team would have to go back to the basics and work to improve on those areas that were costly against the Demons.
"We could've entered the ball better to our post players tonight," Holloway said. "And our post players could have done a better job of getting themselves open. We just didn't move crisply and that's what you've got to do against a zone like Dodge's."
Dodge City 12 9 12 17 -- 50
Garden City 11 8 9 7 -- 35
Dodge City (50) — Oldham 0-1 0-0 0, Norton 2-2 0-1 4, Gross 3-7 2-2 8, Weiser 1-4 1-2 5, Newton 3-4 1-2 7, Larson 2-3 6-8 10, Goedeken 3-6 7-9 13. Totals 16-31 17-24 50.
Garden City (35) — Delgado 1-8 0-0 2, Riggs 0-1 0-0 0, Nanninga 3-12 0-0 8, Banner 3-8 1-1 7, Keller 0-4 0-0 0, Terpstra 3-13 0-0 6, Parr 1-3 2-4 4, Love 1-1 0-0 2, Tramp 3-3 0-0 6. Totals 15-53 3-5 35.
3-point goals--Dodge City 1-3 (Dean 1-2, Goedeken 0-1), Garden City 2-16 (Delgado 0-3, Riggs 0-1, Nanninga 2-5, Banner 0-3, Keller 0-3, Terpstra 0-1). Rebounds--Dodge City 28 (Larson 7), Garden City 28 (Banner 6). Turnovers--Dodge City 12, Garden City 7. Fouls--Dodge City 8, Garden City 19. Fouled out--Garden City (Terpstra). Technical fouls--Garden City (Terpstra).