Two big wins against regional opponents has the Fort Lewis College men’s basketball team moving in the right direction. Six games against much smaller schools before the start of conference play will now test the focus of the Skyhawks.
Five days after a huge 90-85 win against Eastern New Mexico, FLC (2-0) will welcome Northern New Mexico at 7:30 p.m. today before it will see Emry-Riddle Aeronautical University out of Prescott, Arizona, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. It’s part of a four-team Fort Lewis College Classic, as Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference rival Adams State will also play Friday and Saturday inside Whalen Gymnasium in Durango.
“Northern New Mexico, talent-wise, could easily play in our league and be just fine,” FLC head coach Bob Pietrack said. “They have real players, so it’s not an issue of us maybe overlooking them by any means. We’ve been prepping for two days and will be prepared to play.
“Having Adams State here, we will get this early chance to look at them when the play, as well. It’s going to be a fun weekend.”
Adams State (0-2) will play Embry-Riddle (1-3) at 3 p.m. Friday and will face Northern New Mexico (1-6) at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
FLC beat Northern New Mexico 87-70 back on Nov. 2 in Espanola, New Mexico. It was an exhibition for FLC but counted for the Eagles. In that game, FLC true freshman Akuel Kot scored 18 points, while Riley Farris, Danny Garrick and Will Wittman also scored 16 for FLC.
It was Naquwan Solomon who led the Eagles with 13 points and seven rebounds.
“It’s difficult to play a team you played 13 days previous because you’re familiar with each other,” Pietrack said. “We will try some new wrinkles, and I’m sure they will, as well. But, with our location, it’s hard to find games for both teams, so scheduling each other makes sense.
“We have a lot of respect for Northern New Mexico. They play hard, and it’s normally a good game. We are excited to be back at home and continue to try to build on the momentum established last week.”
So far this season, Farris has scored 47 points in 43 minutes on the floor. The junior has shot 62.5% from the field and is perfect at the foul line, as he went 14-of-14 last weekend.
Garrick has averaged 17 points and made 7-of-13 of his 3-point attempts. Kot has averaged 14.5 points per game through his first two career collegiate games.
FLC might be without the services of starting point guard Logan Hokanson, who had a wrist injury aggravated last Sunday. If he is unable to play, it likely will be junior Cesar Molina to start. Last Saturday against Western New Mexico, Molina came up big with 13 points. Freshman Junior Garbrah would come off the bench to play big minutes like he did against Eastern New Mexico.
“Molina has started games before,” Pietrack said. “Junior brings a real spark off the bench because of the aura about him. We like him bringing that energy off the bench.”
Friday night is the NIke N7 game for FLC to honor Native American Heritage Month. FLC is one of 15 colleges to participate in the program that helps raise money that goes toward grants to support athletics in Native American and Aboriginal communities. FLC will wear its special turquoise jerseys for the game.
“We are extremely proud of the Native American tradition Fort Lewis College has,” Pietrack said. “We are thankful to be part of the Nike N7 games and look forward to having a good crowd.
“We experimented last week with some afternoon games and didn’t get the crowd we were hoping for. Friday night with the celebration and our normal start time, we hope to have a really great crowd.”