GODFREY — De’Antae McMurray senses the Southwestern Illinois College men’s basketball team is peaking.
The Blue Storm certainly were at their best Tuesday at the George C. Terry River Bend Arena.
They blew past host Lewis and Clark Community College, 104-67, for their 18th win in their last 19 games. SWIC, which defeated LCCC for the second time this season, improved to 23-5. LCCC dropped to 9-18.
“We’ve been playing as a team, sharing the ball and playing good defense,” said McMurray, a 6-foot-1 sophomore guard and Alton High graduate. “We’ve been shooting well, too. We did that (Saturday) against Vincennes, Ind. and we did it again tonight.”
SWIC proved to be the scorchers. The Blue Storm made 36 of 60 shots, or 60 percent. And that included 19 of 31 shooting in the first half to blitz LCCC. They also sank 22 of 27 foul shots.
A 10-0 spree early in the game got the Blue Storm swirling. They led 53-35 at half and widened their advantage to as much as 40 points in the second half.
“Here’s the thing: I think our defense is getting better and we are getting a lot of scoring off our defense,” longtime SWIC coach Jay Harrington said.
He added, “And we are excited about the way we are playing. We feel good about it.”
LCCC coach Doug Stotler devised different ways to thwart the Blue Storm, but they kept rolling like thunder.
“They went through all of our defenses,” he said. “We tried man-to-man, a 2-3 zone, a box-and-1, a press and a half-court trap. They had an answer for everything we did.”
Five players scored in double figures for the winners and McMurray wasn’t one of them. He didn’t need to produce points. McMurray supplied seven assists and recorded seven points, all on free throws. He took only three shots in serving as the quarterback for the team’s potent attack.
Bo Burkhart (19 points), Quan Poindexter (18 points), Christopher Galbreath (18 points), Kyle Lemon (12 points) and Justin Dieker (10 points) kept the Blue Storm surging. SWIC connected on 10 of 18 treys to go with 26 of 42 shooting on 2-pointers. Galbreath made 9 of 13 tries, Poindexter was 7-for-9 and Burkhart made 6 of 10 attempts, including 5 treys.
“What we wanted to do was stop their 3-point shooting,” Harrington said, again praising the team’s defense. “Any time you play Lewis and Clark, you know that they will be ready to go.”
Will Sides (11 points), Devontai Halfacre (10 points) and Alton High product Michael Williams-Bey (10 points) sparked LCCC, which made 21 of 61 shots, or 34 percent, and was 20 of 24 from the foul line. The Blue Storm outrebounded the Trailblazers, 39-23.
“It was clearly a complete game for them,” Stotler said of the visitors. “I’m not surprised because they are a good team. They played aggressively and with a lot of intensity.”
He figures the Blue Storm will be a handful once the Division I JUCO playoffs unfold. They are ranked No. 21 nationally and figure to be a force in Region 24.
“They had some injuries early in the season, but now I think they are the best team going into the (region) tourney,” he said. “In my mind, they are the favorite. They are playing with an intensity that other teams don’t have right now.”
McMurray is the player that ignites them, Stotler said.
“They have the best lead guard in the region,” he said of the Drake University recruit.
SWIC 104, LCCC 67
SWIC 53 51 — 104
LCCC 35 32 — 67
SWIC (23-5) — Bo Burkhart 19, De’Antae McMurray 7, Quan Poindexter 18, Austen Twombley 4, Christopher Galbreath 18, Dez Marshall 3, Kyle Lemon 12, Dorian Butler 9, James Wright 4, Justin Dieker 10. 2FG-26 3FG-10 FT-22 PF-17
LCCC (9-18) — Mike Williams-Bey 10, Joan Povea 3, Will Sides 11, Daniel Etoroma 9, Devontai Halfacre 10, D.J. Ellebb 3, David Payne 9, Kolbe Caldwell 3, Malik Washington 9. 2FG-16 3FG-5 FT-20 PF-21