Wranglers open season with victory over Central Arizona

Jacob Ford:Odessa American
Jacob Ford:Odessa American

At times, the Odessa College men's basketball team looked like a high-flying circus act, playing above the rim offensively and defensively.

Other times, however, the Wranglers looked more like a team of 13 new players competing in their first game of the season.

In the end, Odessa College's athleticism and depth proved to be an elixir for the mistakes as it ran away to a 99-71 victory against Central Arizona College Thursday at the OC Sports Center.

Through it all, Wranglers' first-year coach Kris Baumann was walking the sideline, keeping his players involved at both ends of the floor, while trying to find a cohesive unit on the court.

"When we passed the ball around, we looked like a good basketball team," Baumann said. "But I really, really like the toughness of our team.

"They enjoy playing, which I really like. We had too many turnovers in the first half; we turned it over 15 times and they were just traveling, running with the ball before we put it on the floor, silly turnovers. But it was the first game, the first time they've put on a Wranglers' uniform, all of them, so it was the first time they've had  chance to do it."

Jawaun Daniels led the Wranglers with a game-high 19 points, with Adrean Johnson adding 16, Tavon Jones 13 and Jalen Hawkins 12 in the victory. All 13 players saw playing time and, more importantly for Odessa College, scored points.

Trever Irish led Central Arizona (0-1) with 13 points, while Cory Deveaux added 11 in the loss.

For Baumann, the game marked a return to the NJCAA ranks after spending time at UTEP as an assistant coach. With previous junior college stops in Kansas and at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Baumann is well-versed in how strong the competition is at this level.

"I loved being on the sideline calling the plays, instead of tracking timeouts and fouls," he said with a laugh. "To start the season with a win, before heading out on the road, is a great feeling and will give the players a chance to relax.

"I thought we played better in the second half, committing only three turnovers, so that was nice to see."

Odessa College travels to compete at the East-West Challenge in Lewisville. The Wranglers will face Jacksonville College at 5 p.m. Friday, Trinity Valley at 4 p.m. Saturday and Angelina College at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Games that will give the Wranglers a much truer barometer of what the team needs to work on during the nonconference portion of its schedule.

"We are going to be playing some good teams," Baumann said. "I played in this tournament when I was at Trinity Valley and the competition is always very good."