After McCutcheon’s season-opening loss to West Lafayette on Nov. 21, coach Rick Peckinpaugh looked his players in the eye and told them they had the talent to win games, but executing was up to them.
Six nights later, the Mavericks beat Twin Lakes by 31 points, and they haven’t looked back. In their conference opener Friday night, the Mavericks jumped on Tippecanoe School Corp. rival Harrison early in a 54-40 victory that was much worse than it looked on the scoreboard.
“I wish I had some answers right now for why, but we got obliterated, and for the first time, we didn’t compete,” Harrison coach Mark Rinehart said. “That game was won in the first five minutes.”
McCutcheon forced 21 Raider turnovers and, as it did in the J&C Hoops Classic semifinals on Nov. 30, built a large lead in the first quarter.
Unlike that previous meeting, the Mavericks kept up their defensive intensity and stopped any hopes of a comeback.
Trevor Lockwood scored 14 of his 19 points in the first half, helping the Mavericks (5-1) build a 34-15 lead and calm a hostile Harrison student section.
“It’s the greatest feeling you can have in a basketball game,” Lockwood said of dominating the first half. “You know you have the momentum at the half. You can ride that the rest of the game if you can keep it.”
The Mavericks did.
Nathaniel Acree hit two early shots in the second half and the lead grew to 41-17. McCutcheon forced six turnovers in the third quarter, adding to the 13 from the first half. Acree and Tre’Shon Heard each had three steals.
“We really wanted that first half to be up-tempo, so we came out pressing,” Peckinpaugh said. “I think that got them into a rhythm they aren’t used to playing.”
The offensive execution was just as promising for the Mavericks, who won their fifth straight entering tonight’s game against Logansport, McCutcheon’s first contest at Resler Gymnasium since its season-opening loss.
“I am really glad we got the win tonight, but we’ve still got a whole season ahead of us, and that gives me good thoughts,” said Acree, who nearly had a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds.
Cole Smith led the Raiders (3-3) with 20 points and six rebounds. Noah Thomas also pulled down six boards for Harrison, which fell to 0-2 in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference.
Heard had six assists, piloting an offense that shot 44.2 percent (19 of 43). Lockwood made 8 of 12 field goals and also had six rebounds.
“I thought there was times we looked like a really good team out there,” Peckinpaugh said. “We continue to build on that and play like that for 32 minutes, we’re going to be hard to beat.”