Niagara Gazette — New to the Niagara County Community College gymnasium this year — shiny bench chairs emblazoned with the Thunderwolves logo, and a dedicated student cheering section, the howling Wolf Pack.
In Tuesday night’s home opener, all 14 NCCC men’s basketball players got up off the new bench and into the game, and the student fans had plenty of reason to get out of their seats and cheer during a 69-43 win over Finger Lakes CC.
“It was fun,” said sophomore guard Isaiah Johnson, who led the Thunderwolves with 29 points and 11 rebounds. “That’s something we didn’t have before. They kept us motivated and kept us in the game.”
Johnson scored 22 of his points on just eight field goal attempts in the second half, as NCCC (2-1) broke open a game that was close throughout a sloppy first 20 minutes.
“My teammates got me open and I capitalized on it,” said Johnson, who was 9 of 11 from the floor during the game and 5 of 7 from 3-point range.
“We had no rhythm in the first half,” coach Bill Beilein said. “We said at halftime that we needed to get more shots in the rhythm of our offense, and we were able to do that.”
NCCC opened up a 12-0 lead to start the game, holding the Lakers scoreless for nine minutes, but quickly saw their lead slip down to 16-15. They closed the half with another strong spurt and went into the break up 29-20.
“As the season goes along, you get longer stretches of good minutes. In our third game, you just get flashes of that,” Beilein said. “The first five minutes of the first half were good, the last five minutes were good, and the 10 minutes in between were just horrible basketball.”
NCCC won going away despite the fact that it shot just 39.7 percent and turned the ball over 23 times. It helped that they forced 26 turnovers and forced Finger Lakes to shoot just 30.8 percent. The Thunderwolves also had 17 offensive rebounds.