Hours before his Iowa Central men took to the court, head coach Dennis Pilcher had an uneasy feeling.
With the Tritons welcoming a one-win Clinton squad to Hodges Fieldhouse, Pilcher wasn't sure what he would see.
Iowa Central prevailed over the Cougars, 94-90, staying within a couple of second place in the ICCAC.
Photo by Paul DeCoursey
Dylan Travis of Iowa Central drives to the basket against Clinton on Wednesday inside Hodges Fieldhouse. The Tritons won, 94-90.
Dylan Travis scored 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Jesse Jones had 21 and dished out six assists for the Tritons (17-10 overall, 6-4 in league), who have now won four straight and are 8-2 in their last 10.
"Give Clinton credit because they came in here loose and really took it to us," Pilcher said. "During our afternoon shootaround (on Wednesday), I didn't like what I saw from our guys.
"We didn't have a lot of fire or intensity, and that continued through the game. We jumped out early, hitting some three-pointers, but that was also a bad thing because we kept pushing the pace and forgot about the one thing we were preaching: patience."
IOWA CENTRAL 94, CLINTON 90
Iowa Central - Jesse Jones 8-17 3-5 21, Ky Kramer 1-4 6-6 9, Javonte Young 5-8 6-8 17, Dylan Travis 11-16 2-2 29, Malik Brooks 3-7 3-4 11, Justin Lawler 2-3 0-0 5, Winston Yergler 0-0 0-0 0, Puot Kudhot 1-2 0-0 2, Ben Hunt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 31-57 20-25 94.
Clinton - Trevon Gaines 5-8 0-0 15, Dione Blyden 4-12 1-1 11, Kimani Stevens 5-10 5-5 16, Onterier Brown 8-15 7-7 25 BeeJay Caleb 6-9 2-2 14, Samuel Bil 0-2 0-0 0, Travis Witt 3-6 2-2 9. Totals: 31-62 17-17 90.
Halftime score: Iowa Central led 48-42. Three-point goals: Iowa Central 10-24 (Jones 0-4, Kramer 1-3, Young 1-2, Travis 5-8, Brooks 2-5, Lawler 1-2); Clinton 11-27 (Gaines 5-9, Blyden 2-7, Stevens 1-2, Brown 2-5, Bil 0-2, Witt 1-2). Total rebounds: Iowa Central 34, Clinton 27. Steals: Iowa Central 6, Clinton 2. Blocked shots: Iowa Central 1, Clinton 2. Turnovers: Iowa Central 12, Clinton 11. Points off turnovers: Iowa Central 10, Clinton 9. Total fouls: Iowa Central 17, Clinton 21.
Iowa Central jumped out to a quick 20-12 advantage thanks to a 13-3 run courtesy of triples from Travis, Javonte Young and Malik Brooks. That lead ballooned to as many as 14 in the first half before the Cougars (1-20, 0-9) rattled off a 10-5 burst to give them some confidence.
"You could hear it in (the Clinton) locker room; they felt like they had us on the ropes, despite being behind," Pilcher said. "Anytime you get a win it's a good thing, but there's a lot of issues I am seeing right now.
"We just aren't playing much defense at the moment and that has to change because you can't win championships outscoring the other team every single night."
Clinton's Onterier Brown, a former Des Moines Hoover standout, scored 25 points, including 16 in the second half when his team slowly cut into the deficit.
Free throw shooting and timely three-pointers went the way of the Cougars, as they were 17 of 17 at the line and made 11 triples - including five over the final 20 minutes.
"Coming in, Clinton was shooting below 60 percent at the line and didn't have many shooting nights (like Wednesday)," Pilcher said. "We just let them take open shots, though, and when you do that, teams are going to knock them down."
The Cougars made it a one possession game a number of times in the final minutes, but Iowa Central found a way to keep from giving up the lead throughout.
Jones made several tough buckets from inside the paint, Ky Kramer went 6-for-6 at the line and Justin Lawler hit a much-needed three to seal the deal.
"Dylan had another excellent night, as did Jesse," Pilcher said. "That was some big-time free-throw shooting from Ky - which we expect out of him.
"Several guys gave us good, hard minutes off the bench. We just need more of that to continue."
The Tritons return to action next Wednesday at Southwestern (8-14, 1-6) before finishing the regular season with three home dates vs. Ellsworth, No. 12 (NJCAA, Div. II) DMACC and NIACC.
Iowa Central is currently third in the league standings, a half-game behind Iowa Lakes and a half-game ahead of the Panthers, Trojans and Ellsworth.