By Jonah Bronstein
Niagara Gazette — The Niagara County Community College men's basketball team has two big-time challenges this week, starting with tonight's rubber match with rival Erie Community College.
Since losing to NCCC in the consolation game of its season-opening tournament, ECC has won 17 of its last 18 games and risen to a top-10 national ranking.
The Kats lone loss in that stretch came against Monroe CC, another nationally-ranked team, which they went on the road to beat 91-82 on Saturday.
NCCC visits MCC on Thursday.
The Thunderwolves (15-6, 6-1 WNYAC) have won eight of nine with their lone loss coming at ECC on Jan. 22.
"They played us a lot differently in that second game," NCCC coach Bill Beilein said. "We didn't see the floor well against their defense."
But after shooting 25 percent from the field and falling behind by 19 at the half, NCCC was able to outscore ECC in the second half of 92-75 loss.
"The biggest thing is we need poise," Beilein said. "We need to be able to score against their press."
In the halfcourt, Beilein is looking for continued strong play from shooting guard Jon Marsh, who is hitting at a 52 percent clip from 3-point range in WNYAC games.
"Jon Marsh has been killing it in conference play," Beilein said.
The NCCC women's team is also looking to rebound from a poor performance at the Flickinger Center when it opens tonight's 5:30 p.m. doubleheader with ECC.
The Thunderwolves shot just 10 percent from the field in 67-47 loss.
"They absolutely blitzed us in the first half," coach Nate Beutel said. "We need to come ready to play a full 40 minutes right from the get-go."