Photo by: Henoc Kivuye
Oklahoma Christian University looked to turn their away game struggles around on the final road trip of the regular season.
The first game of the road trip pitted the Eagles against the Dustdevils of Texas A&M International University. TAMIU has only lost one game at home this year in Laredo, Texas – the farthest conference opponent for the Eagles.
TAMIU shot red hot from behind the 3-point line all game, leading to their victory over the Eagles 69-62.
TAMIU took an early lead in the game, but after an 8-2 run by the Eagles – during which senior Kendre Talley hit two 3-pointers – the Eagles took the lead 16-12. The game went back and forth, but the Eagles held a slim 31-30 lead at halftime.
An 8-2 run by the Dustdevils to start the second period boosted them ahead, seizing a lead they would never give up to the Eagles. Energy carried over from the first half afforded TAMIU a leg up, according to senior guard Brandon Troutman.
“I think that International had taken the momentum of the game and turned it in their favor towards the end of the first half, and they carried that into the start of the second half,” Troutman said. “It wasn’t a lack of effort on our part, but they did a better job of adjusting and then making shots to start the second half than we did. We played catch-up right from the start of the second half.”
With 7:40 left on the clock, the Eagles fought and cut the gap to 54-51, but it was as close as they would get for the rest of the game.
The Dustdevils iced the game by going 6-8 from the free-throw line in the final minutes, sealing the win.
Senior Will Reinke led the Eagles with 19 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and two assists. Talley finished the game with 18 points and six assists.
Oklahoma Christian has been historically successful on Saturday games – especially after bouncing back from a loss, so the Eagles were looking forward to the next game against St. Mary’s University.
St. Mary’s roster includes senior center Kevin Kotzur, heralded as the best center in the Heartland conference.
“It will be a battle,” graduate assistant coach Will Chapman said. “Will and Kevin are probably the two best players in the league.”
Last time the two teams faced off, Reinke dominated the matchup between the two centers, holding Kotzur to only seven points. For only the third time in his four-year college career at St. Mary’s, Kotzur scored less than ten points.
For the second time this season, Reinke won the individual battle of the big men, but this time St. Mary’s came out on top.
“It was a battle,” Reinke said. “It’s fun to play against other big guys, but I wish we could have played better at the end of the game.”
Only five players scored for the Eagles, and the Rattlers had five different players hit at least one 3-pointer.
For the second game in a row, the Eagles’ opponent shot over 50 percent from behind the arc. The Eagles also shot well for the second game in a row, shooting over 40 percent from the field as well as behind the arc and posting a season-high 90 percent from the charity stripe.
The Eagles wrap up their road games having lost their last four contests away from home. They have now set their sights on their final regular season game against University of Texas-Permian Basin.
Saturday afternoon will be senior day and Oklahoma Christian will graduate three seniors this year: guard Brandon Troutman, forward Devan White and Reinke. Tip-off is at 4 p.m. in the Eagles’ Nest.