A fast start was negated by a steady defensive presence as the Sioux Falls Skyforce pick up their first home win of the season downing the Maine Red Claws 97-77 Friday night at the Sanford Pentagon.

Three straight wins for the ‘Force (3-2) have all come by double digit margins each with a similar formula. At some point during the first half, take control then stymie the second half runs.

Providing differing levels of discomfort was guard/forward Rodney McGruder who says disrupting the perimeter passing lanes is partly practice and anticipation. “It’s something that we go over (repeatedly) in practice, but sometimes it’s just making a basketball play.” McGruder was among six Skyforce players with multiple steals in the game and says they were able to counter when Maine (3-3) got rolling. “After you get hit (with a run) you have to hit back. We did that early in the game and again in the second half to get the win.”

Neither team shot the ball particularly well with Maine and Sioux Falls finishing at 38 and 42 percent respectively. However Maine committed 27 turnovers, lost the battle on the boards by 10 and put up 20 fewer shots.

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Skyforce Head Coach Dan Craig noted other trends that were to his liking. “We held them to under 20 points three out of the four quarters. We also did a good job of applying pressure at opportune times.”

Jarnell Stokes in his second game on assignment from the Miami Heat notched 24 points and 8 rebounds while fellow post player Keith Benson provided 14 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks for the Skyforce. Meanwhile Maine’s assignee from the Boston Celtics Jordan Mickey picked up a double-dozen of 12 points and 12 rebounds with 3 steals and 2 blocks.

These two teams will tangle again with a Saturday night special on Heritage Court to finish off Maine’s only trip to Sioux Falls this year.