Casper College men's basketball braces for No. 1 Indian Hills … – Casper Star-Tribune

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Casper College head coach Shaun Gutting talks to his team during a timeout in the T-Birds’ game against Northeastern Junior College last season at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym.
Shaun Gutting knew Casper College’s early season schedule was going to be tough. But the third-year head coach didn’t plan on it being this difficult.
Friday night, the T-Birds welcome Indian Hills Community College, the No. 1 junior college team in the nation, to Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym to tip off the Vista Thanksgiving Classic. The T-Birds played No. 2 Salt Lake Community College and No. 5 College of Southern Idaho earlier this month.
“I knew when we scheduled all three teams that they would be really, really good,” Gutting said. “I didn’t plan on all of them being in the top-five, but that’s kind of what you sign up for when you play against the top dogs.”
Even though the T-Birds lost to both Salt Lake (97-74) and CSI (105-75), and are underdogs against the Warriors (9-0), Gutting believes these games will benefit his team as the season progresses.
“This is a really good experience for us,” he said. “We learned a lot from the games against CSI and Salt Lake, and this will be nothing but a learning experience for us. No matter what happens, we have nothing to lose going into this game.”
Casper College (6-2) brings a three-game winning streak into Friday’s game. Sophomore Kenard Richardson leads the team in scoring at 17.1 points per game, with sophomores Jamison Epps (13.8 ppg), Dalton Peterson (13.6 ppg) and Nestor Dyachok (10.4) also averaging double-digit points. In addition, sophomore Jaren Harris is averaging 9.8 ppg and freshman guard Darius Robinson 8.9.
With the amount of Turkeys being eaten this Thanksgiving, you have to ask yourself ‘why them?’
They’ve all had solid games this season, but Gutting knows the best is yet to come for his young roster, which has had to overcome losing players to injuries and team violations.
“Our guys have been asked to play roles they weren’t expected to play,” he explained. “So I’ve been impressed with the guys’ willingness to do things they haven’t been asked to do before. Ultimately, I think that’s going to end up making us better at the end of the year.”
Chief among them is Richardson, with the 6-foot-4 shooting guard filling in at point guard, a position he didn’t play in high school in Richmond, Virginia, or last year at Otero Junior College. The 6-6 Epps has shown the ability to be a distributor (3.3 assists per game) and rebounder (team-leading 10.5 boards per game); and Richardson, Robinson and Peterson are all shooting at least 40% from behind the arc.
Gutting admits the T-Birds need to do a better job on the defensive end of the floor, but he has seen improvement.
“We still struggle defensively making multiple efforts,” he acknowledged. “We make the initial stop, but then we have to scramble out to the next guy or scramble after a rebound. But I think the guys are taking the defensive end more seriously and understanding the effort they need to give 100 percent of the time.”
The T-Birds finish the Thanksgiving Classic against Lake Region State on Saturday and then spend the month of December on the road before going on semester break. First, though, they have to get ready for Indian Hills, which has three players – guards Don McHenry (13.4 ppg), Enoch Kalambay (11.9 ppg) and Truth Harris (10.4 ppg) – scoring in double figures. The Warriors are the first No. 1 team to play at The Swede since Midland (Texas) College defeated the T-Birds 67-59 on Nov. 6, 2010.
“These types of games will only help us as we get into December,” Gutting said. “We realize we have to do the right thing on both ends of the court, we have to have a sense of urgency. With the talent level we have, if we do that at all times it will keep us competitive.”
Follow sports editor Jack Nowlin on Twitter @CASJackN
FRIDAY: Thanksgiving Classic, No. 1 Indian Hills CC (9-0) at Casper College (6-2), 7 p.m.
TOUGH NOVEMBER: This will be the T-Birds’ third game against a top-five team this month after they played No. 2 Salt Lake CC (97-74 defeat) and No. 5 College of Southern Idaho (105-75 defeat).
HE SAID IT: “This is a really good experience for us. No matter what happens, we have nothing to lose going into this game.”

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Sports editor
Jack Nowlin returned to the Star-Tribune in 2007 after eight years covering Michigan State University athletics. A Wyoming native, and a graduate of Jeffrey City High School and the University of Wyoming, Jack serves as the Star-Tribune’s sports editor.
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Casper College head coach Shaun Gutting talks to his team during a timeout in the T-Birds’ game against Northeastern Junior College last season at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym.
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