The Central Wyoming College Rustlers took on Gillette College Pronghorns who are ranked third in the nation.
The Rustlers led most of the game with an eight point lead on the Pronghorns in the first half and kept their lead almost to the last minute of the game.
The Pronghorns tied the game 66-66 with about a minute left. Two crucial opportunities at the foul line helped the Pronghorns expand their lead to four, concluding in a victory, 70-66.
“It was a tough loss; losing is hard,” said Pat Rafferty, head coach. “I was proud of our effort, team work…we put ourselves in a position to earn a great win. We just fell short and couldn’t get it done.”
The men had 11 assists during the contest and only eight turnovers to the Pronghorn’s 16. While the Rustlers distributed points throughout their players, two shot in the double digits. Freshman Marcus Nolan from Casper, Wyoming contributed 18 points and teammate Devon Brown of Englewood, Colorado contributed 11. The team made 10-36 from the three point territory but was outscored 17 to 6 from the free-throw line.
Despite the presence of a six foot ten center from the opposing team, the Rustlers were evenly matched on the boards, pulling down 35 rebounds to the Pronghorn’s 37.
“I’m hopeful we can take the effort, approach and purpose in which we played and use this game as a reference as to how good we’re capable of being,” Coach Rafferty said. “If we choose to play the right way we have a chance to win every game. If we don’t use this game and learn from it moving forward, then it’s just a loss and doesn’t mean anything more than that.”
Coach Rafferty and the Rustlers received a lot of compliments after the game as to how well they played against a nationally ranked team but Coach Rafferty voiced his concerns about the team being satisfied with the result and not being more driven to win the next game.
“My concern is that we take the compliments and are satisfied instead of being hungry and driven to be the best we can be and to not become satisfied and comfortable with losing,” Coach Rafferty said. “It was a good effort, but we still lost. There’s nothing nice or satisfying about losing. We’ll learn a lot moving forward.”
“This was great game for our team and community to be part of,” said Steve Barlow, athletic director. “We competed well against a nationally ranked team and have shown how much we have grown as a team. Great things are ahead for this team.”
The Rustlers return to their home court Wednesday Jan. 20 at 7:30 pm.