Special to The Sun
HAYS, Kan. —
Three late turnovers cost Central Oklahoma a chance at pulling off a much-needed win here Wednesday night as Fort Hays State scored the final six points to pull out an 84-78 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association victory.
The Bronchos had rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit to take a series of one-point leads in the final minutes, the last one coming on Alyssa Fuxa’s three-point play with 1:37 remaining that put UCO on top 75-74.
FHSU turned the ball over 20 seconds later, but the Bronchos quickly returned the favor in addition to getting called for an intentional foul. The Tigers made one of two free throws to tie it and then hit a 3-pointer to go up 78-75 with 56 seconds left.
Fuxa’s long 3-pointer from the wing knotted it at 78 at 0:38, with FHSU regaining the lead 80-78 on two Katelyn Edwards free throws with 14.1 seconds left. UCO then turned it over two straight times and the Tigers made four additional foul shots to arrange the final margin.
FHSU used a big free throw advantage in improving to 13-5 overall and 5-5 in the league, hitting 31-of-37 charity tosses (83.8 percent) while the Bronchos (8-10, 1-9) were 14-of-20 (70.0 percent) from the line.
Savannah Hamilton had a sensational outing for UCO, hitting 6-of-10 shots with a pair of treys in scoring 17 points while adding 10 rebounds, five blocked shots and three steals. Fuxa, Jill Bryan and McKenzie Solberg added 13 points apiece and Chelsi Dennis had 10 as the Bronchos scored 26 points more than FHSU’s defensive average of 52.0 that ranks among the NCAA Division II leaders.
UCO jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead to start the game as McKenzie had five points and it was a 14-11 advantage when the Tigers scored seven straight points to move in front. The Bronchos trailed by as many as eight before closing within two (35-33) on Britney Morgan’s driving layup with 1:25 left, but FHSU scored the final four points to take a 39-33 edge into the break.
Hamilton’s layup off a Solberg feed pulled UCO even at 40-all early in the second half, though the Tigers answered back with nine straight points for a 49-40 lead. The Bronchos chipped away at that deficit and finally tied it at 63 on Dennis’ 3-pointer from the wing.
UCO grabbed its first lead since the opening minutes at the 2:34 mark when Dennis drilled another trey, this one from deep in the corner off a Chelsea Robinson pass that made it 72-71, and Fuxa answered a FHSU three-point play with one of her own at 1:37 to set the stage for the fanatic finish.
The Bronchos move on to Kearney, Neb. Friday to take on Nebraska-Kearney at 5:30 p.m.
Late rally falls short for Bronchos
Two final-minute turnovers helped curtail a late rally and Central Oklahoma dropped a 77-71 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association decision to Fort Hays State here Wednesday night at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
The Bronchos chopped an 11-point second-half deficit to two at 71-69 on Josh Gibbs’ 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:12 left to play, but UCO threw the ball away on its next two possessions and the Tigers made 7-of-8 free throws over the final 42.3 seconds to secure the win.
The loss ended UCO’s four-game road conference winning streak, dropping the Bronchos to 7-11 on the year and 5-5 in the MIAA. FHSU improved to 12-6 and 6-4.
Spencer Smith came up big for UCO, hitting four 3-pointers and all eight free throws in a game-high 24-point outing while adding a game-best eight rebounds. Jamell Cormier had three treys in scoring 14 points and Gibbs finished with 13.
The Bronchos trailed 37-35 at halftime and were still within a bucket at 43-41 after a Smith layup before FHSU scored nine unanswered points to open up a 52-31 lead as UCO missed seven shots and had four turnovers.
It was still a nine-point hole (58-49) with 7:27 left, but Smith scored seven points in a three-minute span to pull the Bronchos within 64-60 and Cormier followed a FHSU bucket with a 3-pointer from the wing to make it 65-63 at the 3:00 mark.
Cormier came back with another trey a minute later to answer a FHSU 3-pointer that kept UCO within a bucket (68-66) and Gibbs’ long-distance shot after a three-point play by the Tigers still had the Bronchos within two before the late turnovers ruined the comeback.
Gibbs and Smith had consecutive 3-pointers in the opening minute to stake UCO to a quick 6-2 lead before the Tigers came back to move in front 17-12 after five minutes. Treys by Jamell Cormier and Jacob Strassle in an 8-0 run put the Bronchos back on top 20-17 and another long-distance shot by Smith made it 25-22 at the 8:01 mark.
The lead was 31-29 after two Smith free throws with 4:24 left, but FHSU used an 8-1 run to grab its biggest lead of the half at 37-32 in the final minute before Seth Heckart pulled the Bronchos within 37-35 at the break with UCO’s sixth 3-pointer of the half.
The Bronchos stay on the road for another MIAA contest Friday, taking on Nebraska-Kearney at 7:30 p.m. in Kearney, Neb.