Brent Friday scored the last of his career-high 27 points with three seconds remaining to lift Central Oklahoma to a pulsating 72-71 upset of No. 25-ranked Central Missouri here Tuesday night.
It was the biggest win of the season for the Bronchos, who overcame a 13-point first-half deficit to pull out their fourth straight victory and improve to 13-10 in the Valentine's Day showdown against their future Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association rival.
The Mules scored with seven seconds left to move in front 71-70, but Friday drove in and converted at 0:03 to give UCO back the lead. UCM took a quick timeout and then missed a long 3-point try at the buzzer as the Bronchos held on.
"I'm so proud of my guys and how hard they fought tonight," head coach Terry Evans said. "We never gave up after getting down and just battled all night long. We've played an incredibly tough schedule this year and these guys have never stopped fighting."
Friday was brilliant all night long, hitting 11-of-18 shots and all five free throw tries in his career-best night, with the senior guard adding seven rebounds and four assists. Spencer Smith was the only other Broncho in double figures, hitting five 3-pointers in a 17-point outing.
The Bronchos trailed 40-35 at halftime and fell behind by 10 (48-38) early in the second half before rallying. Tyler Phillips' 3-pointer gave UCO a 52-50 lead at the 13:35 mark and it was back-and-forth the rest of the way.
Josh Davis put the Bronchos on top 67-66 on a layup with 2:29 left, but the Mules hit a 3-pointer at 2:04 to go ahead 69-67. Smith answered with his final trey of the night at 1:43 to give UCO a 70-69 advantage and the Bronchos rebounded a UCM miss at 1:11.
UCO couldn't add to its lead, missing a 3-pointer of its own at 0:38, and the Mules went back on top 71-70 when Widgett Washington — who finished with 23 points —hit a follow shot at 0:07.
But Friday was up to the challenge, following a UCM timeout with a driving layup at 0:03 to give the Bronchos the dramatic victory.
The Mules appeared in control late in the half after opening up a 13-point lead at 40-27 before UCO scored eight points in the final 1:17 to get within five by the break.
Friday and Davis had two layups apiece in that surge, with the Bronchos getting steals from Shane Carroll and Davis to spark the late rally.