Eagles Sneak by Dallas Baptist
Photo by: Henoc Kivuye
The Oklahoma Christian University men’s basketball team needed all 40 minutes to solidify a victory against Dallas Baptist University, but the Eagles were able to outlast the Patriots down the stretch.
The Eagles avoided playing their fourth-straight overtime game after Dallas Baptist University's last-second three-point attempt fell short.
Oklahoma Christian made many key plays down the stretch to assure their victory, none bigger than when sophomore Nick Tate tied up Dallas Baptist's Nick Fox streaking down the lane. The play resulted in a jump ball, which gave the possession to the Eagles with only a few seconds left in the game.
Junior Eric Randall hit two free throws to give the Eagles a three point lead, ultimately enough to win the game 66-63.
The Dallas Baptist Patriots headed into the game on a four-game losing streak, but with a history of playing well at home. The Eagles had picked up their first road win outside Oklahoma against St. Edward’s University, and had more momentum heading down to Dallas for the road game against the Patriots.
The Oklahoma Christian alumni in the Dallas area came out in full force to support the Eagles, and for the second game in a row Oklahoma Christian fans outnumbered the home team fans almost two to one. The North Texas alumni group handed out t-shirts to fans and gave away free food throughout the game.
“We really appreciate the support we get at our away games,” junior point guard Kendre Talley said. “It makes us feel like we are at home even when we are on the road. Even though most of the people that come are alumni, we compare them to our student section.”
Dallas Baptist is also a member of the NCCAA, along with the Eagles and other conference foe McMurry University. The Patriots came into the game ranked17th in the NCCAA, while the Eagles have moved up to the number 12 spot in the rankings. The Patriots have had success in the NCCAA, winning the national championship just two years ago in the 2010-2011 season
The spotlight matchup was between Dallas Baptist's Nick Fox, currently the leading scorer in the Heartland Conference, and Oklahoma Christian's senior center Will Reinke. Fox won the point battle between the two, outscoring Reinke 30-15. Reinke outperformed Fox in all other facets of the game, including 10 rebounds to give him another double-double on the season’s record. He had three assists, three steals and one blocked shot on the night. Reinke gave some insight on his highly anticipated face-off with Fox, whose versatility proved a bundle to handle for the veteran senior.
“He was a tough matchup,” Reinke said. “He was a dual-threat guy that could score inside in the post and also shoot the 3 from outside. He was very crafty inside, which made it a fun matchup for me.”
Both teams’ defenses shone throughout the game, holding each other to under 40 percent shooting from the field for the game. The Eagles currently have the top defense in the league, and the game justified that claim. Oklahoma Christian outrebounded the Patriots, holding a slight edge at 33-29. The Eagles also continued to struggle from the free-throw line, shooting only 64 percent for the game. Dallas Baptist was number one in the Heartland Conference in 3-point percentage heading into the game, but the Eagles’ defense held them to just 19 percent shooting.
Oklahoma Christian held the lead at halftime 35-28, but the Patriots made a quick charge after the break — starting the half on a 14-3 run — to take the lead 39-38. Dallas Baptist increased their lead to four, 44-40, before Willie Harper's 3-pointer sparked a 9-0 run by the Eagles.
Following a three-point play by Reinke, the Eagles looked to be in control with just under seven minutes left to play in the game. The Patriots tightened up their defense though, and the Eagles would hit a cold streak for the next five minutes, scoring zero points. With just under three minutes left in the game the score was tied at 60-60.
With time running down in the game and Oklahoma Christian leading 62-61, Kendre Talley missed a driving layup, and Dallas Baptist secured the rebound. With 10 seconds left in the game, the Patriots ran a high pick and roll, and the Eagles reacted, switching the play. Senior shooting guard Brandon Troutman was forced to guard Dallas Baptist’s big man Nick Fox. Fox received the pass at the high post and drove left into Oklahoma Christian defender Nick Tate, who was able to grab hold of the ball, forcing a jump ball to be called. The possession arrow favored the Eagles, and they hit two free throws to take the lead for good at 66-63.
“Dallas Baptist was one of the toughest teams to play at home,” Talley said. “They are the best shooting team from the three-point line, and a great big man, so it was good to go on the road and get a win against a good team.”
Talley scored 12 points for the Eagles, also dishing out five assists. Randall contributed 11 points.
The Eagles have two upcoming games; they play the only two Heartland Conference foes they have not yet faced this year. Jan. 24, the Eagles will face the Texas A&M International University Dust Devils. The Dust Devils are currently fourth in Heartland Conference standings and are 9-6 overall. After a day off, the Eagles will face St. Mary's University on Jan. 26. St. Mary's is 4-2 in Heartland Conference play, ranking them in third place. For the year they are 14-3 overall, but have only played three games on the road this year, going 1-2 away from home.