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CAC men edged by No. 13 Salt Lake in opener

Vaqueros Jalen Menzies scores 18 in upset win.-Oscar Perez Pinal Central
Vaqueros Jalen Menzies scores 18 in upset win.-Oscar Perez Pinal Central

CAC men edged by No. 13 Salt Lake in opener
By ED PETRUSKA Contributing Writer Pinal Central

SIGNAL PEAK — After overcoming a 13-point deficit to take a five-point lead with 8:43 remaining, the Central Arizona College men's basketball team was unable to slam the door on Salt Lake (Utah) in Saturday's opener.

The Vaqueros fell 80-76 to the Bruins, who are ranked No. 13 in the NJCAA poll. Salt Lake (2-0) went ahead to stay at the George Young Activity Center with an 11-0 run that ended with 5:07 to play and erased CAC's 66-61 lead.

Ryan Pate made his sixth 3-pointer of the game with 8.3 seconds left to pull the Vaqueros within 78-76. Central got the ball back immediately when Salt Lake's inbounds pass hit one of the auxillary baskets. But the Vaqueros couldn't capitalize, committing a turnover that led to a pair of clinching free throws for the Bruins with 6.8 seconds remaining.

"Our guys battled hard," CAC assistant coach Brandon McGruder said. "We competed and didn't back down. We gave ourselves every opportunity to be in the game but just couldn't capitalize."

Salt Lake owned a 45-36 halftime lead. The Bruins made 15 of 34 field goal tries in the first half (44 percent) while the Vaqueros shot 10 for 30 (33 percent). Salt Lake also had a 12-5 advantage in second-chance points.

The Bruins took their largest lead at 37-24 with 4:02 left in the first half on a 3-pointer by Adam Hess. Central sliced the margin to single digits at the break by making 6 of 8 free throws in the final 1:11.

The Vaqueros began the second half with a 16-6 surge to take a 54-51 lead with 14:20 remaining. Salt Lake went 2 for 9 from the field with five turnovers on its first 14 possessions before tying it 54-54 on Asa McCord's 3-pointer and 61-61 on a 3 by Justice Hill.
DJ Hawkins put CAC ahead 64-61 with a 3-pointer, and a basket by Brenton Woods on the Vaqueros' next possession made it 66-61.

"We allowed too many second-chance points in the first half," McGruder said. "In the second half, we tightened things up defensively."

Central went scoreless on eight consecutive possessions during Salt Lake's decisive go-ahead run that gave the Bruins a 72-66 lead with 5:07 to play.

"We got some good looks, but the shots weren't dropping," McGruder said.

Pate came off the bench to make six 3-pointers and score a team-high 20 points for CAC. He had 14 in the first half. JC Canahuate went 8 for 9 on free throws and finished with 17 points, and the Vaqueros got 11 from Shakeil Bertrand.

McCord had 20 points for Salt Lake, followed by Spencer Johnson with 17 (10 for 11 from the line), Hill with 14 and Tutu Majok with 11.

The Vaqueros held the Bruins to 35 percent shooting in the second half (10 of 29) and 40 percent for the game (25 of 63). CAC shot 49 percent in the second half (16 of 33) and 41 percent overall (26 of 63).

Salt Lake converted Central's 19 turnovers into 22 points. The Vaqueros scored 14 points off 17 turnovers by the Bruins.

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