Special to The Sun
Northeastern State scored with 2.8 seconds left to thwart Central Oklahoma's spirited late rally and hand the Bronchos a tough 54-53 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association setback Wednesday night at Hamilton Field House.
The Bronchos overcame a 16-point deficit in the final 10 minutes to take their first and only lead of the game at 53-52 on Chelsi Dennis' 3-pointer with 17 seconds left, but NSU's Taylor Lewis rattled in a contested 10-foot jumper 14 seconds later and UCO couldn't get a shot off before the final buzzer.
It was the fifth straight league loss for the Bronchos, who dropped to 8-7 and 1-6. The RiverHawks improved to 10-5 and 5-2.
Rachel New led UCO with 13 points, while freshman Whitney Dunn had 12 off the bench. Alyssa Fuxa added 10 points and Dennis finished with eight.
Lewis had a game-high 19 points in leading NSU.
Neither team shot well, with the Bronchos hitting only 19-of-58 shots (32.8 percent) and the RiverHawks 19-of-54 (35.2 percent).
UCO missed its first nine shots of the game in falling behind 9-0 and trailed 15-3 nine minutes into the game. The deficit peaked at 14 (20-6) at the 9:10 mark, with the Bronchos getting within seven (26-19) at intermission on Hayley Bryan's 3-pointer with three seconds remaining.
Central was within six (32-26) in the opening minutes of the second half before NSU went on a 12-2 run to stretch its advantage to a game-high 16 at 44-28 with 9:33 left to play.
But the Bronchos didn't fold, reeling off 10 unanswered points to get back in the game. Jordan Ward started the spurt with a 3-pointer from the top of the key and New did the rest, sandwiching a pair of high-floating layups around a deep 3-pointer to get UCO within six (44-38) with 6:59 left.
The RiverHawks still had a seven-point lead at 50-43 with 3:22 to play before the Bronchos made their last surge.
Fuxa drained a trey from the wing, Ward followed an NSU miss with a driving layup and Dennis went coast-to-coast after rebounding another errant shot to draw UCO even (50-50) at the 1:15 mark.
The RiverHawks hit a layup at 0:40 to go back in front, setting the stage for Dennis' 3-pointer from the corner that gave the Bronchos their brief lead and Lewis' game-winner.
UCO is back home again Saturday afternoon, hosting league foe Northwest Missouri at 1:30 p.m.
NEO FOUL SHOTS DOWN UCO MEN
Northeastern State outscored Central Oklahoma 31-17 from the free throw line and made eight straight foul shots down the stretch to topple the Bronchos 80-71 Wednesday night at Hamilton Field House.
The RiverHawks were deadly from the charity stripe all night, finishing 31-of-36 (86.1 percent) and making their final 16 of the game. The last eight of those came in the final 29 seconds after UCO had trimmed a 10-point deficit to three (72-69) and enabled NSU to pull away with a game-ending 8-2 run.
The loss ended a three-game Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association winning streak by the Bronchos, who dropped to 6-9 overall and 4-3 in the league. The RiverHawks improved to 11-4 and 4-3.
Josh Gibbs once again led UCO, finishing with 18 points. Spencer Smith added 12 and Christian Huffman had 11 off the bench.
The Bronchos shot 49.0 percent (25-of-51) from the field, but were just 4-of-18 (22.2 percent) from 3-point range. UCO ended up 17-of-23 (73.9 percent) from the free throw line.
NSU led most of the game and was up by as many as eight (20-12) in the first half. It was a 29-22 deficit with 4:16 left when the Bronchos went on a 11-2 run to grab a 33-31 halftime lead.
Layups by Josh Davis and Gibbs started that spurt, with Smith adding a conventional three-point play, Nic Combs a pair of free throws and Gibbs a half-ending layup that gave UCO the two-point edge at intermission.
The Bronchos’ last lead came at 40-39 on a Smith 3-pointer three minutes into the second half, with NSU moving ahead to stay 13 seconds later. The RiverHawks went to grab a pair of double digit leads, the last time at 63-53 with 6:53 remaining.
UCO cut it to three (70-67) on Huffman’s driving layup at the 3:07 mark, with his steal and coast-to-coast layup keeping it a three-point game at 72-69 with 1:15 left.
But the Bronchos scored only on a Jamell Cormier layup the rest of the way as NSU went to the foul line to salt the game away.
Bryton Hobbs led that charge for the RiverHawks, hitting all 13 of his free throws. Jermaine Bransford (22), Marcus Sheppard (20) and Hobbs (19) combined for 61 of NSU’s 80 points.
UCO is back in action again Saturday, hosting Northwest Missouri in another conference tilt at 3:30 p.m.