Two teams took the court for Tuesday night's Haskell Indian Nations University's men's basketball game against Manhattan Christian College.
At times, however, it appeared that a third team had entered the fray, as the Indians mixed brilliant execution with perplexing displays of impatience that helped Manhattan twice trim double-digit deficits to under 10 points.
Fortunately for Haskell, the spurts of great play exceeded the moments of lost focus as the Indians outlasted the visitors, 87-73, at Coffin Sports Complex.
"Early, we really looked good, we were getting turnovers and built a lead," Haskell coach Ted Juneau said. "We made some substitutions early, and I think we lost some continuity."
Haskell (3-5) set the tone early against an undersized and outmanned Manhattan squad. Junior guard Dominic Clichee helped orchestrate an up-tempo attack that went straight to the Indians' one huge advantage - 6-foot-11 center Terrance Little Thunder. The towering junior scored eight of the his team's first 13 points while moored under the basket.
The Indians' crisp execution, 10-for-13 shooting and a roof-raising dunk by Ben Carrywater helped them build a 27-10 lead with just over nine minutes left in the first half.
That's when the other team showed up.
Manhattan managed to claw its way back with the help of forced shots and miscommunication from Haskell as the energy the home team had created seemed to dissipate.
It didn't help matters that Manhattan sophomore guard Justin Glenn drained four 3-pointers - among his game-high 28 points - in that span to help cut the Haskell lead to 43-35 at halftime.
After the break, the Indians returned to form by blindsiding Manhattan with another display of quickness on the perimeter and brute force under the basket. Clichee, Carrywater and Little Thunder helped the Indians go on a 24-11 run that stretched the lead to 21 points.
Haskell faltered once again late as Manhattan took advantage of 10 turnovers to cut the deficit to nine with less than two minutes to go. The Indians finished strong, though, by hitting their final four free throws to pull away.
"I told the guys in a timeout that they have to pretend that it's a two-point game," Juneau said. "They have to keep that mentality. The good thing is that we put ourselves in a situation to get the ball inside, and we did a good job of that. Terrance played well, and Ben has been playing really well for us. But we just need to take the intensity we had and forget about the unforced errors and quick shots."
Little Thunder put in a team-high 25 points.