Mike Rodriguez listened to what his coach told him in the locker room at halftime and then responded on the court with a big second half Wednesday night.
The Marshalltown Community College men's basketball team only led winless Clinton Community College by four at the break, but Rodriguez's 15 points and four steals helped the Tigers run away from the Cougars at the Student Activity Center.
Rodriguez finished with 27 points, nine steals and four rebounds and the Tigers outscored the Cougars by 20 points after the break in the 73-49 triumph in non-conference action. It was the third straight win for MCC (12-9).
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Marshalltown Community College freshman Mike Rodriguez glides past a defender from Clinton Community College on Wednesday during the Tigers’ 73-49 win at the Student Activity Center. Rodriguez led the way for MCC with 27 points and nine steals.
Rodriguez connected on all six of his shots from the floor and went from 3-for-3 from the foul line in the second half and has scored at least 20 points for the fourth time this season.
"Coach got on me and I responded basically," said Rodriguez. "He told me I was nonchalant so I made sure that I turned things up in the second half."
The Tigers connected on just 3-of-19 from 3-point range but got plenty of easy buckets in transition. And it was often their intensity at the defensive end of the floor that forced turnovers and allowed for a more up-tempo pace in the second half.
"We just came out timid. They pressed us and we looked like a deer in the headlights all of the sudden," MCC coach Brynjar Brynjarsson said. "We didn't attack it the way we would normally attack a press. Our press offense was non-existent and we stood around against their zone."
Brynjarsson said his team got good looks from distance most of the night. The shots just weren't falling. The Tigers did manage to hit on 41 percent of their field goal attempts despite a 16 percent clip from 3-point range. MCC also had an eight-point advantage at the line, making 16-of-25.
"We had wide open looks. They just didn't go in," Brynjarsson said. "If we go 6-for-19, it would have changed the flow in the game for sure. They didn't go in, oh well, and we move on."
Jamal Gatali also scored 11 of his 16 points after halftime and added seven rebounds and five steals. The Tigers had 18 steals in the win and forced Clinton into 24 turnovers.
Troidell Carter added 10 points but had just two in the second half. Marquis Cunningham chipped in eight points and a team-best nine boards. MCC outrebounded Clinton 46-38 and turned it over just 12 times.
Clinton entered the game with a record of 0-15. But the Cougars played with better intensity in the first 20 minutes. They hung with MCC the entire first half, and even rallied from a 10-point deficit thanks to a 3-pointer and layup from Onterier Brown. Brown led the Cougars (0-16) in the loss with 18 points and seven rebounds.
The game was tied at 24-all with 3:38 to play in the first half following back-to-back triples from Samuel Bil and Kimani Stevens.
Rodriguez then hit a deep 3 that was a few feet beyond the line to give the Tigers a lead they wouldn't surrender. Marshalltown led by as many as 23 in the second half.
"We didn't take this game like we should have and misjudged them a little bit," Rodriguez said. "Coach got on us and we played with more energy and better defense."
The Marshalltown student section was loud and proud for much of the game. Both Rodriguez and Brynjarsson said that they appreciate the support. The Tigers will need that kind of energy from the fans in the stands at 7 p.m. Saturday when they host No. 5 Indian Hills (20-2, 2-1) at the Student Activity Center. The Warriors are coming off a 107-88 home win over No. 9 Iowa Western on Wednesday.
"They did that on their own. They showed a lot of support," Rodriguez said of the amped-up student section. "They'll be back Saturday. They know that's a rivalry game."
Turnovers could be the key against Indian Hills. If the Tigers do not take care of the ball, they won't have any chance to pull the upset, according to Brynjarsson.
"More than anything, it's a conference game. When you play those games at home, you have to take advantage of those opportunities," said Brynjarsson. "We have to come ready to play. If we turn the ball over, it won't be a basketball game. That is what it comes down to."
Since taking over as a starter on Jan. 8, Rodriguez has averaged 18.5 points per game. During its three-game win streak, MCC is averaging 17 steals and forcing 23.7 turnovers per contest. The Tigers also are shooting 46.3 percent from the floor during the stretch. Saturday's game against Indian Hills will be a part of Down syndrome awareness night, where the Tigers will raise both money and awareness for children with Down syndrome through GiGi's Playhouse of Des Moines. Tickets to the game will be $10 and half of the sales go to support Down syndrome awareness. The Tigers have now won three straight games for the second time this year. They are 5-2 in their last seven games.