The Oklahoma Christian University’s men’s basketball team is diving headfirst into this new season. On Tuesday, Nov. 5, the Eagles took on Division I University of North Texas in Denton, TX.
Eagles’ assistant coach Luis Lopez coached for the University of North Texas prior to his switch to Oklahoma Christian this year. Ultimately, the Eagles fell to North Texas 79-40.
Senior sports wellness major James Bagwell, who hit two consecutive three-pointers at the end of the game, reflected on the game and how the team prepared going into it.
“We approached the game just like any other game,” Bagwell said. “They were a little bigger than most Division II schools we will play, but we just took that into account and went out there and gave it our all. We enjoyed being the underdog and the challenges that come with being the underdog.”
Bagwell said having a coach who used to work for the University of North Texas helped the team gain insight and be prepared to take on the Mean Green.
“We had a great scout for the game,” Bagwell said. “Coach Lopez was right on the money with preparing us for them.”
Playing a Division I team can be intimidating and can often lower confidence for players, coaches and teams, but Bagwell says the Eagles looked at the game as a chance to improve and set the tone for the rest of the season.
“The mindset is to get better,” Bagwell said. “Take on a challenge that will prepare us for the rest of our season. It was a unique opportunity for all of us, and I think we learned a lot from it.”
This lopsided loss was taken with a grain of salt by both players and coaches at Oklahoma Christian. Bagwell and Kendre Talley, head coach for the Eagles, saw it as an opportunity for the team to grow together.
“I think our team chemistry will continue to get better with every game we play,” Bagwell said. “We have a great coaching staff and a great group of guys who enjoy playing together. I think having two great tests at the start of the season will only make us better as we go into games that really count.”
“It was a great opportunity tonight for us to come out and compete,” Talley said. “We got a chance to play everything, and I think we grew closer as a team.”
Talley and Bagwell agree the Eagles were competing well with the Mean Green at the beginning of the game but could not sustain it. However, both agreed there is room to improve, but the team also has the potential for a high level of play.
“I think we had a good start,” Bagwell said. “We came out firing and going at them. I think we had a good second half after our scoring drought in the end of the first half. There’s a ton to improve on after this game. Valuing the ball and our possessions will continue to be a key. I think running our offenses and just getting on the same page as a team can be the first step in summing things up.”
“If you cannot put the ball in the hole, you are probably not going to have a chance to win it,” Talley said. “Right there at the beginning, we were right there with them. We were running our stuff and playing really well together. That shows you how good we can be if we play together.”
The Eagles will return to the Nest Nov. 12 to battle cross-town rival the University of Central Oklahoma. Tip-off occurs at 7 p.m.