LEVELLAND — If you plan on asking South Plains men's basketball coach Steve Green how he navigates away from feeling pressure when taking to the hardwood, you should come prepared to defend such question.
For a Hall of Fame coach who has amassed over 400 wins and two national titles during his 17-year tenure heading up the South Plains College program, coach Green still brings that 'next game is the most important game of the season' mentality with him when the lights come on in the arena.
His current squad seems to thrive off that mindset radiating off their coach as the Texans have strung together 24 consecutive victories including an unblemished 12-0 mark in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference, their most recent performance coming on Monday night as the top-ranked Texans throttled the New Mexico Junior College Thunderbirds 104-78 at the Texan Dome.
"Who says you don't feel pressure," Green replied when asked about not feeling pressure. "I think 25 can go to 16 in the blink of an eye, and then you have a ball game again. I have a group of guys that are very confident offensively. And then you have the one wild card (Jordan Brangers) that can pull up and hit a 3 just about anytime he wants to. When they're out there trying to stick him way out there, that's when Josh really starts playing well."
That was the case Monday night as Brangers scored in double figures for the 22nd consecutive game, leading all scorers with 23 points on 8-of-18 shooting from the floor. The Texas Tech commit tallied 18 of his final total in the front half, leading the Texans to a 51-34 advantage at the midway point of the contest.
"Early in the first half I was able to get some looks and hit some shots and get into a rhythm," Brangers said. "Sounds crazy, but I love it when they face guard me. I embrace the challenge, and I love when other teams try to shut me down. I feel like it's a good challenge and a time to produce. Every conference game is a big stepping stone. Not only are we trying to go unbeaten in the conference, but we're trying to go 36-0 and win a national championship."
Trailing by 17 at the break, it became clear New Mexico was in dire need of a halftime adjustment. The Thunderbirds held Brangers to just five points in the second half.
Montell McRae, Josh Webster, Roberto Gallinat and Grantham Gillard combined for 40 points in the back half of the contest as New Mexico was hell-bent on stopping Brangers, leaving a plethora of weapons in the hands of coach Green and company.
"Here's the thing that's different about this team than any other team that I've had – they really, really like each other," Green said. "They're in a pretty good frame of mind, and they have been every game. These guys come to play all the time. There's really nobody on this team that can't score. And, when your leading scorer is starting to turn down some shots to get other guys shots, you've got something going there."
With New Mexico centered around shutting down the Texans from the outside, Webster and McRae sensed the Thunderbirds had picked their poison – and they were it. Webster scored 10 consecutive points from the 15:04 to the 13:22 mark of the second half, converting at the rim on five straight possessions.
"They weren't getting back on defense, so I just took advantage of it," Webster said. "They were focused on my shooters like Jordan, Raquan and Roberto, and that opened up the floor for me to get to the basket. It's not even like we have to talk. It can be a head nod or just our eyes for them to go back door of fake a jump shot. Our chemistry has definitely helped us on the court."
With the paint open for business, the 6-foot-8 McRae went to work scoring 10 of his 15 points in the final 20 minutes. With the Texans leading 90-69 with under five minutes remaining, McRae went above the rim on an alley-oop pass from Grantham Gillard, shaking the rim and putting the final touch on yet another offensive masterpiece from the No. 1 team in the land.
"Jordan opened up with some 3s, and once they started going in on him we knew it was time to attack," McRae said. "Feeding off our guards means more points and more rebounds down low. I love it. I know Josh is going to be able to get open and find me down low. Lately, in practice, our coaches have been telling us to throw it up and for me to go get it. So that's what I did."