HOLCOMB — After running away with a mercy-rule win Thursday over an athletic but over-matched team, the Longhorns were looking for a challenge of a different nature on Friday night in Day 2 of the Clarion Inn Southwest Classic.
But just like Thursday night, Holcomb proved too tough, rolling past Pueblo, Colo., East, 70-37, in another physical game to remain unbeaten at 3-0.
Holcomb turned a 5-4 lead at the 6:12 mark into a 16-6 lead at the first break.
They extended that to 23-6 after forcing five straight turnovers against the Eagles to start the next quarter.
And after a long third period that saw 21 possessions, 14 turnovers, a technical foul and and a flagrant foul, the Longhorns emerged with a 50-27 lead that resulted in a running clock in the final period.
Holcomb forced 18 turnovers, held Pueblo to just 13 boards, and limited them to just 16 field goals, including 4 of 15 from beyond the arc.
Credit the Longhorn defense again, said coach Chad Novack.
“Overall our kids played really, really well defensively,” he said. “They did a great job of trying to keep them from getting into the paint. I’m really proud of the way they defended tonight.”
That defense limited Pueblo to just five second-chance opportunities. Holcomb had 12.
The wild third quarter saw Holcomb commit eight turnovers (they had just 14 on the night) when things got physical against a team that had just come off a championship football season.
“You could tell some of those (Pueblo) guys were still in football mode, but I thought our kids responded well and did a good job of holding their composure together when it got pretty physical,” Novack said.
Trey Sleep was on again, scoring 23 points, including going 7 for 10 from the free-throw line.
Connor VanCleave scored 12 points, including 10 in the second half.
Christian Merz hit a trio of treys, and Jacob Ramsey came off the bench and nailed four to finish with 12.
“Credit a couple things. One, our posts finding them and kicking it back out. And Jacob getting his feet set with the confidence to get those in,” Novack said.
Ramsey’s feat off the bench duplicated that of Brandon Stegman the previous night.
“We’re a team that’s going to be tough to guard just because we have so many different weapons to use. If one person’s not shooting well, we have another guy who can step in a do what we need him to do,” Novack said.
As a team, Holcomb players have great confidence in each other, he added. It’s what will take the team far.
That confidence showed in 19 assists on the night.
“When we have kids sharing the ball like we do, it really does make us that much tougher to defend,” Novack. “They have a great sense of basketball IQ, always making that extra pass to get that extra good look.”
This was the second straight night the Longhorns mercy-ruled their opponent.
Tonight they face Garden City in the fourth iteration of the ArkRiver Rivalry, another athletic challenge for the 3-0 Longhorns.
“They’ll mix up the defenses,” Novack said. “I expect it to be a high-intensity ballgame.”
Pueblo East (3-3)—Whatley 1 0-1 3, Kohler 1 2-2 4, Padula 6 0-1 14, Fesmire 4 -2 9, DeSalvo 2 0-0 5, Torres 1 0-0 2. Totals 11-41 3-6 37.
Holcomb (3-0)—Merz 3 1-2 10, Stegman 0 0-1 0, Gottschalk 4 2-4 10, Ramsey 4 0-0 12, Rupp 1 0-0 3, VanCleave 6 0-1 12. Total 26-49 10-19 70.
Pueblo East 6 10 11 10 — 37
Holcomb 16 19 21 14 — 70
3-point goals—Pueblo East 4-15 (Whatley, Padula 2, DeSalvo), Holcomb 8-19 (Merz 3, Ramsey 4, Rupp). Rebounds—Pueblo East 13 (Kohler 3), Holcomb 26 (Sleep 9). Personal fouls—Pueblo East 19, Holcomb 18. Fouled out—Andrews. Technical fouls—Pueblo East 2.