NWF State men go 2-0, women 1-1 opening weekend

Two takeaways could be gleaned from the NWF State's season-opening weekend.

The men, fresh off outscoring Coahoma Community College and Lincoln Trail by a collective 228-134 margin, are ranked No. 1 in the country for a reason.

The women, who lost to Motlow State before rebounding with a blowout win over Coahoma, may need a bit of time to gel after returning only one starter from last year's Elite Eight campaign.

Dubbed the preseason No. 1 by Sporting News and the NJCAA, Steve DeMeo's crew opened with a 114-62 win over Coahoma and then a 114-72 win over Lincoln Trail.

"We understand that some days practice is going to be more competitive than our games," said DeMeo, who led the Raiders to a national championship two years ago.

When you post two 114-point efforts — last year the Raiders eclipsed the century mark four times with a season high of 107 points — things are clicking offensively.

Showcasing unselfishness and fluid ball movement, nine of the 10 Raiders that saw action shot above .500, seven players averaged double figures and six averaged at least four assists for an offense that averaged 27 assists. Through two games the Raiders are shooting 64.1 percent from the floor, burying 11.5 3-pointers a game on a 47-percent clip and making it to the line 25 times per game and draining 76 percent of those. Meanwhile they're averaging under 12 turnovers.

"I thought we played very well," DeMeo said. "From a sharing-the-ball perspective, I thought we did outstanding."

Andres Feliz, the team's leading score with an average of 18.5 points, scored 20 and 17 on a combined 15 of 20 shooting. PJ Bruce is averaging 16 points, Malik Petteway 15, Jared Wilson-Frame and Teehjay Bogan both 14, Jeromy Rodriguez 12 and Daryl Edwards 10.5.

"For the opposing coach, who do you pick to guard?" DeMeo said. "We have so many weapons. The biggest challenge is keeping everyone happy. But to be a champion, no matter what sport you play, sacrifices need to be made. Winning makes everyone happy."

Of course DeMeo understands there are adjustments to be made.

"For this team to be an elite team, we have to work on our defensive transitions," he said. "We have to work on getting back and keeping people in front of us. Defensive rebounding is also a big focus."

For the women, Friday night's season opener was one to forget. The Raiders' frontcourt of Nasheema Oliver, Britney Snowden and Jade Lewis combined for 10 of 31 shooting, just 30 points and 15 rebounds and 11 of the team's 21 turnovers. Meanwhile the backcourt was led by Jasmine Rhodes' eight points. The 35-percent-shooting clip from the floor and 8-of-20 effort from the charity stripe accounted for a scoring output lower than any game last year.

The Raiders, though rebounded on Saturday. Led by Rhodes' 16 points, Tamela McCorvey's crew had six players score in double figures. As for their preseason motto of running teams out of the gym, the Raiders offset a sub-38-percent shooting effort with 25 steals — led by Snowden's six swipes and four each from Ashley Lee and Naomi Bolasingh — and committed just 11 turnovers.

The women next travel to College of Central Florida on Friday, while the men hit the road the same day for Snead State (Alabama).