Special to The Sun
An early-game scoring drought put Central Oklahoma in a big hole and the Bronchos never recovered in falling to No. 8-ranked Central Missouri 94-76 Thursday night at Hamilton Field House.
UCO trailed just 10-7 four minutes into the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association contest, but made just one of its next nine shots and committed seven turnovers as the Jennies went on a devastating 28-3 run to open up a 38-10 lead at the 7:59 mark.
Central Missouri made five 3-pointers during that big spurt and went on to take a 53-23 halftime lead, which was too much of a deficit for the Bronchos.
Central Oklahoma fell to 6-4 on the season and 1-2 in the league, while the Jennies improved to 8-1 and 2-0. The Bronchos are home again Saturday, hosting Missouri Western at 1:30 p.m.
“We played awful in the first half and obviously you can’t do that against a team like Central Missouri,” head coach Guy Hardaker said. “I was happy with the way we competed in the second half and thought we played a lot better and smarter.”
Britney Morgan led the Bronchos with 15 points and three assists, while Olivia Mason had 12 points and a team-high five rebounds off the bench.
UCO shot just 32 percent (8-of-25) from the field, including only 22.2 percent (2-of-9) from 3-point range, in falling into its 30-point halftime hole while the Jennies made 7-of-11 (63.6 percent) long-range shots.
The Bronchos were much better in the final 20 minutes, making 17-of-34 shots (50.0 percent) while committing just five turnovers in outscoring UCM 53-41.
In the mens game, Central Missouri used a game-ending 8-1 run to hand Central Oklahoma a stunning 72-70 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association setback.
The Bronchos had a five-point lead at 69-64 following a Philip Brown layup with 2:58 remaining, but Central Oklahmoma made just one free throw and missed its last five shots from the field the rest of the way as the Mules rallied to claim the big road win.
“We had a lot of opportunities,” head coach Terry Evans said. “It’s a tough loss, but our kids fought hard. We’ve got a really young team and it showed down the stretch. We didn’t have very many turnovers all night, but we had some in the last minute or two that pretty much gave them the game.”
The loss ended UCO’s 10-game home winning streak and dropped the Bronchos to 7-3 on the season and 1-2 in league play. UCM improved to 10-1 and 2-0.
The Bronchos looked in good shape after Brown’s layup on an offensive put-back, but the Mules hit a 3-pointer at 2:09 to trim the deficit to 69-67. The two teams traded misses before UCM converted a steal into a fast-break dunk that tied it at 69-all with 1:14 remaining.
Josh Gibbs hit 1-of-2 foul shots with 57 seconds left to give UCO a 70-69 lead and the Mules answered with a layup at 0:39 to go up 71-70. The Bronchos had two chances at regaining the lead in the final seconds, but Seth Heckart’s 3-pointer from the top of the key with four ticks left was off the mark and Gibbs’ tip-in failed to fall.
Central Missouri made one of two free throws with 1.2 seconds left to make it 72-70 and Gibbs’ 60-foot one-handed heave at the buzzer bounced off the rim.
Gibbs led the Bronchos with 27 points and 10 rebounds for his 10th consecutive double-double as the senior standout hit 8-of-13 shots with four 3-pointers. Heckart also made four treys in a 14-point, six-assist outing, while Aaron Anderson had nine points, five rebounds and five assists.
Central Oklahoma had just nine turnovers in the game, but the Mules held a huge 34-7 advantage in bench scoring.
Central Missouri led by as many as six (23-17) in the first half before Gibbs nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to spark an 11-2 run that put UCO in front and the Bronchos went on to take a 35-31 halftime advantage.
The Mules led 46-44 six minutes into the second half when UCO again used its long-range accuracy to surge ahead. Gibbs, Cal Andrews and Heckart made 3-pointers on consecutive possessions and the Bronchos went on to take a 10-point lead at 63-53 on another Heckart trey with 7:58 left.
But back came UCM and the Mules prevailed in the end.