By Mikkayla Guillett and Michael De Leon
The Austin Toros dropped to 11-14 on the season Thursday night with a 104-93 loss to the New Mexico Thunderbirds at Cedar Park Center.
While the Toros relied on their three-point shooting to get past the sixth place Reno Bighorns just a day before, they struggled with their perimeter game through the first half on Thursday, connecting on just 14 percent of their threes.
The Toros were able to stay with the Thunderbirds and took a 22-21 lead after one quarter, led in scoring by James Anderson with seven points and Lance Thomas with five.
But the Thunderbirds went on a 7-0 run to close out the second quarter 42-35. Dar Tucker and Marcus Hubbard led the Thunderbirds in scoring, with eight points apiece at the half.
The Toros came out of intermission hoping to close the Thunderbirds’ lead. Instead what ensued was the Dar Tucker show. With the help of Dar Tucker the Thunderbirds put up a number of dunks early in the quarter. Anderson’s long-jumper jumpstarted a Toros 9-0 run that gave them their first lead of the second half, 64-62. Their lead didn’t last long as the Thunderbirds battled back and finished out the quarter strong to hold a 71-66 lead. Cousin’s tip-in at the buzzer provided cheers from the crowd, but no points on the board.
Josh Bostic stretched the lead to 11 after a pair of freebies shortly after the quarter started. The team led the entire quarter. The Toros came within six on a few occasions but it wasn’t enough to secure the win.
Defense seemed to plague the Toros throughout the game. Several Thunderbirds players were able to get into the paint and finish pretty easily and that seemed to be the one area several Toros players and coach Brad Jones saw as something to improve on before their next game on Saturday.
“It seemed like we were playing uphill all night long,” Toros coach Brad Jones said. “We had a hard time staying in front of them. I thought they were the more physical team.”
Player of the game Squeaky Johnson led the team with 20 points and five assists. Three other Toros scored in double-figures (Anderson 17, Thomas 15, and Lyons 14).
Six Thunderbirds players scored in double figures. Hubbard, who started the season with the Toros, recorded a season high, shooting 8 of 10 from the field and putting up 19 points.
“We need to have a better defensive mindset going into our next game,” forward Lance Thomas said. “When we play like that we look really bad. I can’t wait to play them again.”
Thomas and the Toros won’t have to wait too long. They play the Thunderbirds again on Saturday at noon at the Cedar Park Center.