Photo by: Henoc Kivuye
The phrase “home is where the heart is” might be the best way to describe the Eagles men’s basketball season so far.
The Eagles have only lost one game at home, but are 7-11 on the road. Oklahoma Christian University has lost its past two road games against University of Arkansas-Fort Smith and Newman University. These two teams are currently ranked first and second in the Heartland Conference standings, which made them a tough test for the Eagles.
The first game of the week was against Newman in Wichita, Kan. In nearly all of the road games this year the Eagles have received tremendous support from alumni in the area, and Wichita was no different.
During most of the game, Eagles fans outnumbered Newman fans. The Newman Jets are the only team that has defeated the Eagles at home this year, and Newman has only lost two games in three years on their home court.
Newman came into the matchup on a two game losing streak, the first time this season they had dropped consecutive games. As a result, Newman had fallen out of the NCAA top 25 poll.
On a night when the Eagles shot 31 percent from the field and 22 percent from behind the arc, they were unable to give Newman their third home loss in three years.
The game stayed close for the first 10 minutes of the first half. Junior Kendre Talley scored with eight minutes left in the first, giving Oklahoma Christian the lead at 22-21—the last time the Eagles had a leg up in the game.
Newman forward Marcus Cuyler hit a 3-pointer that sparked a 20-4 run heading into halftime. The Jets led 45-33 at the break, and the Eagles would never be able to trim the lead under 10 points the rest of the game.
Numerous times in the second half the Eagles had chances to cut the Newman lead to single digits. Nick Tate had a 3-pointer fall short that would have cut the lead to eight points, but the Jets pulled down the rebound and hit a 3-pointer of their own, increasing their lead to 14.
From there the Jets never looked back and won the game 80-63. In contrast to the Eagles, Newman shot 50 percent from the 3-point line for the game.
Sophomore Willie Harper was the bright spot for the Eagles, pouring in 20 points in the losing effort.
The Eagles have played their best games this year on Saturdays and Thursdays, and were hoping the streak would keep up as they headed to Fort Smith, Ark. to take on the Lions.
Oklahoma Christian got off to their worst start of the season, missing the first 15 shots of the game and falling behind 14-0. It would take over 10 minutes for the Eagles to finally put a point on the board, when senior guard Devan White made a free throw to mark the score 17-1. For the rest of the game the Eagles were fighting an uphill battle, trying to overcome the large deficit.
The Eagles continued to pour in the extra effort all half, despite the poor shooting, and were able to cut the lead to 10 at the break, 32-22. Senior forward Will Reinke picked up two fouls within the first two minutes of the game, causing him to sit out most of the first half. Reinke came alive in the second half, scoring all 19 of his points and pulling down 10 rebounds.
After continuing to fight back and chip away at the Lions’ lead, the Eagles were able to pull within four points with four minutes left on the clock. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Arkansas-Fort Smith guard Jake Toupal scored the final eight points of the game for the Lions to seal the victory.
The final score was 62-55. Harper added 16 points to the Eagles’ effort, and Tate scored 11 points.
For the second game in a row the Eagles struggled to shoot the ball from the field, only shooting 34 percent from the field and 21 percent from behind the 3-point line.
The Eagles looked to regroup, with their next three games coming at home against conference foes McMurry University, St. Edward’s University and Dallas Baptist University. Before last night, the last time the Eagles faced McMurry they fell in overtime 69-63. St. Edward’s gave Oklahoma Christian their first win outside of Oklahoma this year, as the Eagles defeated them 87-85 in double overtime. In a streak of overtime games, Oklahoma Christian defeated Dallas Baptist 66-63.
The Eagles drew first blood against McMurry last night, and established an unrelenting defense that held the Warhawks down by at least 10 points most of the first half. Both teams started off with low shooting percentages, but the Eagles broke their streak first–soon speeding ahead by 10 points.
McMurry came out swinging in the second half, but the Eagles ramped up their energy and stayed on top. In the last two minutes the Eagles’ lead was as high as 20 points, and the clean-up crew put the finishing touches on to win the game 77-61.
Oklahoma Christian only has four home games left this season, finishing the year with University of Texas Permian Basin at home on March 2.