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College Basketball: Moraine Valley squeaks by Joliet Junior College

Joliet Junior College's Zoran Aresnovic puts up shot against Moraine Valley's Paul Otruskevicius. | Dennis Nelson/For Sun-Times Media

Joliet Junior College's Zoran Aresnovic puts up a shot against Moraine Valley's Paul Otruskevicius. | Dennis Nelson/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 21, 2014 11:32AM

During the first month of the season, Moraine Valley has been trying to establish an identity. It may have found one during a 72-71 win over Joliet Junior College on Thursday in Palos Hills.

Moraine forced 23 Joliet turnovers, three in the final minute. The miscues allowed the Cyclones to run their record to 4-8. Joliet (7-5) lost its fifth straight after starting the season 7-0.

“That absolutely turned it around for us late in the game,” Moraine coach David Howard said of the late turnovers by the Wolves. “When we needed a stop on defense, we got it. We got it done when we needed it the most. There were a lot of things we could have done better, but we got the ‘W.’ ”

“We had 23 turnovers, 11 in the first half, 12 in the second half,” Joliet coach Joe Kuhn said. “In spite of that, we had a chance to win the game and should have won the game.”

Naiem Johnson’s conventional three-point play with 1:15 left staked the Wolves to a 71-68 lead. Joliet then led 71-70 and appeared to have a defensive stop.

However, a jump ball was called and the arrow favored Moraine. The Cyclones proceeded to miss two free throws and the ball went out of bounds to the visitors.

Joliet, however, was whistled for a five-second call, giving it back to the hosts.

Johnte Shannon was fouled going to the basket and made both free throws with 7.2 seconds left to give Moraine a 72-71 lead. The Wolves did not get off a shot during the final seconds, turning it over again.

“I was thinking I have to hit these free throws,” Shannon said. “We needed to steal the ball and ended up getting a five-second call. Then we got a steal at the end. Those were pretty big.”

Moraine raced to an 11-3 lead on Denton Wallace’s basket with 11:30 left in the first half and led 29-22 at the intermission. Joliet switched to a man-to-man defense to start the second half.

“That turned the game around for us,” Kuhn said. “I felt we had the tide turned and were going to win the game in spite of ourselves.”

A five-point trip by the Wolves, capped by two free throws by Justin Scanlan, cut the Moraine lead to 40-35 with 13:50 to go in the game. Moraine responded with five points on its next two possessions to reclaim a 10-point advantage.

Moraine led by as many as 11, but Joliet wouldn’t quit.

Larry Moore’s conventional three-point play capped a 10-2 run that gave the visitors a 65-63 lead with 4 minutes to play in the contest. Leon Gray’s steal and layup with 2:22 to play gave Joliet a 68-66 lead.

However, after four ties and seven lead changes, Shannon’s free throws gave the Cyclones their first win streak of the season at two. Five Cyclones reached double figures: Des’nique Harris (15), Paul Otruskevicius (13), Kyle Ward (11), Shannon (11) and Cameron Jullierat (10).

Cunningham led the Wolves with 20 points, while Gray tallied 18 points and Scanlan had 10.

“This is our first win streak of the year,” Howard said. “They like the taste of this. Now they have to keep working so we can taste it even more.”

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