The University of Central Oklahoma women's basketball team beat Harding 87-74 Tuesday night in a non-conference game at Hamilton Field House.
The Bronchos improved to 5-1 with the win. UCO led for the entire first half, and all of the fourth quarter, fending off a mid-game rally from Harding in the third to earn its second consecutive win.
"We played really well early, but we had some trouble pulling away," UCO head coach Guy Hardaker said. "We handled adversity well though. When they made their run we didn't panic and were able to hold them off."
Kelsey Johnson, who was named MIAA Player of the Week on Monday, had a big performance Tuesday to follow up the recognition. The junior forward from Washington scored 17 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had six blocked shots. That followed her 19-point, 5-block performance this past Saturday. Her six blocks is tied for the fourth-most in school history.
Central built an early lead Tuesday night thanks to a solid first quarter from Shatoya Bryson. The senior guard knocked down the game's first points on the game's first possession, on a 15-foot-jumper. Clary Donica made a layup before Bryson sank another jumper, then Micayla Haynes knocked down a jump shot to give UCO an 8-0 lead.
Harding fought back, getting as close as 13-12, but UCO made a late first-quarter run that mirrored its early start and built a 20-12 lead after the first 10 minutes. Haynes scored five first-quarter points and Johnson had four to help Bryson's effort.
Central's biggest lead of the first half came after a 7-2 run midway through the second quarter. Haynes knocked down a 3-pointer and got a fastbreak layup to go with Johnson's layup. The Bronchos forced four turnovers during the stretch and had three steals before going up 35-25.
Bryson also had a fastbreak layup in the quarter to put the Bronchos up 39-30 with two minutes to play. Haynes put an exclamation point on the quarter, knocking down a 3-pointer with two seconds to go that gave UCO another 10-point lead, 45-35, at the half.
Harding made its big run in the third, opening the quarter on a 12-2 spurt to tie the game, and eventually take its first lead of the game. A Harding 3-pointer with 5:16 to play made it 50-48. After no lead changes for the first 25 minutes, there were 12 over the next five in a back and forth affair.
Central still held a lead after three quarters. McKenna Pulley drew a foul with just a margin over one second left in the quarter and made both free-throws to put the Bronchos up 62-61.
UCO got a bucket from Jaci Littell to open the fourth quarter, then after a brief drought, Haynes added a jump shot to make it a 66-61 lead. The Bronchos never trailed again.
Johnson's 17 points was only behind the game's leading scorer, Haynes, who scored 22 points. Haynes hit four 3-pointers on the night too. The duo combined to go 9-for-10 from the free-throw line.
Bryson also scored in double figures for the Bronchos, scoring 13 points. She, along with Haynes, had a team-high three steals.
Pulley added nine points off the bench and had seven rebounds. Littell scored seven.
Central Oklahoma started a busy week with Tuesday's matchup. The Bronchos travel to San Antonio, Texas for the St. Mary's Thanksgiving Classic. UCO takes on St. Mary's Friday before facing Lubbock Christian on Saturday.