"We're our own worst enemy right now," said Day, in his initial season at the helm of the Eagles. "We just didn't take care of the ball."
As a result, the Eagles were declawed by the visiting Dexter Bearcats in a 54-37 SEMO Conference loss on Friday.
NMCC (4-11, 1-4 in conference) trailed most of the game as Dexter (6-10, 1-4) posted its first conference victory.
An indication of rocky times ahead followed an early 3-2 Eagle lead. First, a rash of five consecutive turnovers -- 21 for the game -- gave the Bearcats momentum on the way to an 11-3 first-quarter lead.
Throughout the first half, a litany of missed shots and ball-handling miscues seemed to snowball for the Eagles.
"Murphy's Law was against us tonight," said Day. "Anything bad that could happen, did happen. A missed layup turns into a turnover on the next possession, then a turnover turns into a missed assignment on defense. Now we've put a big wall in front of us and we can't break through that wall."
But, to be fair, Dexter had a little to do with the Eagles' problems. The Bearcats were solid on both ends of the court. Both their half-court zone and full-court press were effective.
"I was really pleased with the defensive effort," said Dexter coach Chris Trimmer. "We picked up the pace a little bit and got out on them.
"The press was key to our win. To be honest, I was afraid of their athleticism and once we got them going in the direction where we were starting to get those steals, I didn't want to come out of the press. It was one of those situations where I thought if we backed off and gave them a second to regain their composure, it might be a mistake on our part."
NMCC, while playing inconsistently and connecting on only 2-of-9 from the charity stripe, may have considered themselves fortunate to trail by only eight at the half, 22-14.
But a disastrous third quarter broke open the close game. Dexter, finding holes in the Eagles' defense for easy baskets, outscored NMCC 21-10 to lead 43-24 going into the final quarter.
"New Madrid hustles and plays hard, but they're lacking, traditional New Madrid guard play," said Trimmer. "Their guard play is a little bit down and that allowed us to attack them all night long."
Day, in agreement with the opposing coach's comments, said, "We don't really have a true point guard or a person who wants to handle the ball in those pressure situations. Our guard play is our Achilles heel right now."
Dexter, content to slow it down and draw fouls with the comfortable lead, tallied zero field goals but hit 11-of-17 from the line in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
On the evening, NMCC went 7-of-17 from the free-throw line to 17-of-27 for Dexter.
Day had no qualms about the Eagles' effort, but questioned their mental toughness.
"Right now, as a team, our problem is playing through adversity," he said. "Our goal is to change the mindset. When you get down, you've got to fight even harder. You could see it tonight when things weren't falling like we wanted, heads started dropping instead of digging down, pulling our britches up and fighting through this thing."
Dijuan Waters paced the Eagles' scoring with 10 points. No other Eagle scored more than five.
A trio of Bearcats scored in double figures, led by Bobby Rawson's 14. Kevin Hart had 13 and Logan Swindle added 12.
NMCC won the junior varsity contest, 65-50.
L.T. Sutton led with 12 points; Josh Minner and Bryan Waters added 10 apiece. Ben Mills topped Dexter with 16.
NMCC hosts Scott City on Tuesday, while Dexter competes in the Stoddard County Conference Tournament, which opens in Bloomfield on Monday.