SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — The Santa Cruz Warriors (10-2) held one of the best offensive teams in the league to 39.3 percent shooting from the field, beating the Sioux Falls Skyforce (10-3) 113-102 tonight at Kaiser Permanente Arena. The Skyforce, who claimed a league-best 114.7 offensive rating and a 121.5 per game average heading into tonight, were held to a season-low 102 points.
Two-way forward Damion Lee and reserve guard Kendrick Nunn led the Warriors with 28 points and five rebounds apiece tonight. Guard Will Cherry came close to a triple-double for the second consecutive game, finishing with nine points, nine rebounds and seven assists. The Warriors bench combined for 65 points tonight, including 13 from guard Antonius Cleveland.
The Skyforce were led by forward Yante Maten, who finished with a game-high 35 points and 13 rebounds in 41 minutes, his fifth consecutive double double. Guard Malik Newman added 25 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists, filling in for thieving guard Briante Weber who suffered an ankle injury after collecting five steals in just 13 minutes.
Lee scored nine points in the first four minutes to help Santa Cruz survive a back-and-forth first quarter until a tip-in layup by forward Alen Smailagic at the buzzer gave the Warriors a 31-30 lead they would never relinquish. Despite Malik Newman’s 15-point explosion in the second quarter, Santa Cruz held the rest of Sioux Falls to nine points in the period as they took a 62-54 halftime lead. The three-headed guard attack of Nunn, Cherry and Lee combined for 24 of the team’s 31 points.
Sioux Falls kept the game within reach with an 8-2 run over a three minute stretch in the third period, including a dominating stretch by Maten, who had 11 points in the quarter. However, Santa Cruz’s dynamic bench scored 19 of the team’s 23 points, including seven points from Cleveland, giving the Warriors a narrow 85-82 lead after three.
Despite bringing the lead down to two points early in the fourth quarter, Nunn helped build the lead back up to double digits with 13 points, counteracting Maten’s 11 points and four rebounds (three offensive) in the closing frame. Santa Cruz ended the game with a 53-38 rebounding advantage and held the Skyforce to 7-of-36 from three (19.4 3FG%), a team that came into the night ranked first in the G League in three point percentage (38.4 3FG%).