Four days after winning their first Heartland Conference game over the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, Oklahoma Christian University’s men’s basketball team hit the road for two games in Texas.
The Eagles were looking to win their first game outside of the state this season.
The Eagles have been on the road more often than they were in the Sooner Athletic Conference. The Eagles have struggled on these long road trips, going 0-3 outside the state of Oklahoma. Senior guard Brandon Troutman talked about the team’s performances on the road.
“Our effort has always been there, but our mental focus has been lacking at times,” Troutman said. “It’s just a brand new situation for our team and an adjustment we have to make to try and handle it the best we can to get some more wins on the road.”
The first game on the road trip found the Eagles playing McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. McMurry, like Oklahoma Christian, is in their first year of Heartland competition and will participate in post-season play. Going into Thursday night’s game, McMurry was ranked number one in the NCCAA rankings, with Oklahoma Christian coming in at number 23.
Several clutch 3-pointers down the stretch by McMurry proved to be too much for the Eagles, and they fell 69-63 in overtime.
Only two players reached double figures for the Eagles; senior and two-time Heartland Conference Player of the Week Will Reinke finished with 16 points and 17 rebounds, and sophomore Willie Harper scored 13 points and hit two late 3-pointers to help send the game to overtime.
The McMurry War Hawks and the Eagles boast the top two defenses in the Heartland Conference, and the game was indicative of that. Both teams shot under 40 percent from the field for the game, and the Eagles committed 18 turnovers while McMurry committed 13. The Eagles continued their struggle from the free throw line, shooting only 68 percent for the game. The War Hawks were without their leading scorer for the second straight game, led instead by Takoby Jackson. Jackson scored 23 points, while three other players scored in double figures.
The Eagles held a slim 24-23 lead heading into halftime, with Troutman hitting three 3-pointers in the first half. The second half began with McMurry going on an 8-0 run, but Oklahoma Christian would battle back with an 11-3 run of their own.
McMurry regained the lead with 9:40 left in the game and held the lead until the final seconds, when Oklahoma Christian was able to tie the game and force the overtime period.
The Eagles tallied the first two points of overtime. McMurry responded by hitting back-to-back 3’s to secure the win over the visiting Eagles. The loss moved the Eagles’ record to 8-6. Two days later, they would have another opportunity for their first conference road win as they took on the St. Edward’s University Hilltoppers in Austin, Texas.
For the third game in a row, overtime was necessary to determine the winner. The Eagles trailed for most of the game, and needed a layup by junior Kendre Talley with just 2.6 seconds left on the clock to tie the score and send it into overtime.
In the first overtime period, Troutman fed Harper a pass for a corner three and a chance to win the game, but it fell just short, sending the game into a second overtime period. The game went to the final seconds; St. Edward’s Conner Kjer’s last ditch 3-point attempt fell just short and gave the Eagles a 87-85 victory, their first Heartland Conference road win.
Troutman gave some insight into what the differences were between Thursday and Saturday’s game.
“We had the feeling of our backs against the wall coming off of a loss Thursday night,” Troutman said. “We didn’t want to drop two games in a row and needed a quality road win.”
Reinke and Talley paced the Eagles with 26 and 23 points respectively. Troutman had 10 points, going three for three from behind the arc, including a 3-pointer with 1:24 left in the second overtime.
The Eagles improved from the free-throw line, shooting 82 percent for the game and 54 percent from the field, while holding St. Edward’s to only 37 percent for the game. With the win, the Eagles improve to 9-6 on the season and 2-3 in Heartland Conference play.
The Eagles take on conference foe Dallas Baptist in Dallas, Texas tomorrow. Program Assistant Will Chapman offered a preview of the Dallas Baptist matchup.
“[Dallas Baptist] has a good team,” Chapman said. “They have been up and down but are still solid. They have the leading scorer in the conference Nick Fox; it will be a good matchup for Will Reinke.”