Photo by: Henoc Kivuye
Going into the game against conference foe Dallas Baptist University last weekend, Head Coach Dan Hays knew the men’s basketball team needed a boost.
“We need to go to Dallas and win this game,” Hays said.
The Eagles entered Saturday’s game with a five-game losing streak hanging over their shoulders, matching Dallas Baptist’s four-game losing streak. Oklahoma Christian is 17-7 against the Patriots overall.
“I think this is the game we need to get back on track [with] after losing a few close games,” junior Willie Harper said. “We should win.”
Despite a successful record against the Patriots, Saturday’s game was a hard-fought battle for the Eagles. The lead changed 16 times and there were seven ties throughout the game. Neither team led by more than six through the duration of the game.
Emotions ran high according to senior Kendre Talley, as their last meeting with Dallas Baptist hammered home how badly the team wanted the victory.
“Last year, it was a pretty close game, and we are looking forward to this game,” Talley said. “This is a big game for this season and we need to win.”
Freshman forward Jordan VanDeKop was the centerpiece to the Eagles’ victory over DBU. VanDeKop added nine critical points to the board in the final minutes of the game, including three of four free-throws in the last 10 seconds, pulling the Eagles out of reach with a 69-65 win over the Patriots.
“We basically work 2 1/2 hours every day for training,” Hays said. “Players have to improve teamwork skills.”
In this case persistence plays a role in keeping players in top form.
“We need to train every day to get our muscle memory,” Tate said. “If I just shoot every single day, I will change my muscle memory. My brain is always remembering new things, so players should keep training every day.”
Although the training is hard, the team said they do have motivation to keep them practicing
“Players want to win games for their school and team, so they work very hard for training,” Hays said. “In addition, they are not only representing themselves but also representing the school and basketball team.”
Players agree with their coach because they recognize that each player is not only an individual, but also a needed part of the team.
“I just want to get better,” Talley said. “Practice is motivation that I can get better than before through practice.”
Talley, with 1,106 total points, currently ranks second in scoring in the Heartland Conference and holds 32nd place on Oklahoma Christian’s career scoring list.
“My motivation is to play good for my school,” Tate said. “I think the motivation comes from the team because we are like a family, and we encourage each other.”
Prior to Saturday’s 69-65 win in Dallas, the Eagles’ five-game losing streak was their longest since the 2006-07 season.
“We are a young team, and we need to play lots of games,” Hays said. “Players should continue to work. Hopefully we can make the season go on well.”
Talley scored 18 points against Dallas Baptist, hitting three of four from 3-point range, complimenting his seven free throws, four assists and three steals. Freshman John Moon added fifteen points to the boards, along with eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Junior Willie Harper scored 11 points.
Oklahoma Christian’s next four games will be played at home in The Nest.