TWIN FALLS — Before the College of Southern Idaho women’s basketball players realized they set a record, they ran sprints.
The Golden Eagles had just finished a 69-point win over Colorado Northwestern Community College. They scored 133 points, one more than the previous program record for a single game.
But CSI head coach Randy Rogers wasn’t happy with his players’ defense, so they ran.
The Golden Eagles (19-5, 4-2 Scenic West Athletic Conference) failed to meet a defensive goal Rogers set at halftime. He only came up with the goal because his players could barely miss, and they were running the Spartans (2-21, 0-6) off the floor.
“Lately, we’ve been bringing the ball up a lot slower, not pressing with pace,” Rogers said. “I thought, we’ve gotta go back to kicking the ball ahead and taking open shots when we have them. I know that limits the post touches, but it opens up everybody when everybody on the perimeter is able to take shots they’re capable of making.”
CSI didn’t get into an early shootout or even take a minute to catch fire. It took a 12-2 lead barely two minutes into the game and led 35-15 after one quarter. The score bulged to 71-33 at halftime.
“We just set the tempo right away, and that really got us focused,” CSI sophomore guard Jane Nelson said.
With the win all but assured, Rogers shifted the goal posts. CSI’s defense was mediocre at times, Rogers said, so he challenged the Golden Eagles to hold CNCC to fewer than 25 points in the second half. They would run a suicide for every point more than 25 they allowed. CNCC scored 31.
“You’ve gotta find something to motivate them,” Rogers said. “We had to find a way to try and get better, and obviously we didn’t. So we’re in there running.”
It was a fitting end to what Nelson called a grueling week, which included a sprint-filled practice on Friday and a full-scrimmage pregame shootaround on Saturday.
Nelson said she was tired by gametime, but it was hard to tell.
The sophomore from Salem, Utah, scored a career-high 29 points, the most any Golden Eagle has scored in a game this season. Nelson nearly finished with a perfect shooting line, too: 12-of-13 from the field, 3-of-4 from 3-point range and 2-of-4 from the free-throw line. She was 10-of-10, 3-of-3 and 2-of-2 before she missed two free throws and a 3 in quick succession.
“She wanted to shoot so bad, she finally missed one,” Rogers said with a smile. “She should’ve stopped while she was ahead.”
Nelson didn’t hesitate to call Saturday’s performance her best at the college level.
“Our bench does a really good job of hyping each other up, and that’s always really encouraging,” Nelson said. “You want to score so your teammates can cheer for you.”
The Golden Eagles also got strong performances from Sydney Clark (11 points, nine assists, 3-of-3 from the field, 5-of-6 from the free-throw line), Jerome High School graduate Kaela McClure (eight points, 10 assists, 3-of-5 on FGs), Mallory Lapoole (15 points, 5-of-8 on FGs), Ka’Maree Donald (12 points, 4-of-6 on FGs) and Chesney Campbell (11 points, 4-of-4 on FGs, 2-of-2 on 3s).
CSI scored 42 points in the third quarter for a total of 113, just four off its previous season-high. The Golden Eagles scored 20 points in the fourth quarter and didn’t reach 133 until 1:12 remaining, when freshman Bailey Hawkins made a putback. By then, CSI’s pace had slowed down, the defense was relaxed and the bench had cleared.
Nelson and Rogers said they didn’t know about the program record until after the game. The previous record was 132 points against the Nevada All-Stars on Dec. 27, 2005. The CSI men’s basketball team set an NJCAA record with 199 points on Dec. 1 against Planet Athlete Academy.
CSI’s shooting and pace were equally important, and they were intertwined. The Golden Eagles got numerous easy looks on fast breaks, especially in the first half.
But CSI wouldn’t have set a record without making every type of shot available. Overall, the Golden Eagles went 50-of-77 (64.9 percent) from the field, 13-of-27 (48.1 percent) from 3 and 20-of-25 (80 percent) from the free-throw line.
“Can we always shoot it like this? I don’t know,” Rogers said. “Obviously tonight, we did, but the competition probably wasn’t as strong as we’re gonna see coming up.”
The No. 23-ranked Golden Eagles host No. 10 Salt Lake CC on Thursday.