Eagles bounce back with dominating win over Dallas Christian

Willie Harper went 5 of 9 from 3-point range and scored 19 points for OC against Dallas Christian.
Willie Harper went 5 of 9 from 3-point range and scored 19 points for OC against Dallas Christian.

OKLAHOMA CITY (Dec. 3, 2013) – Mired in a three-game losing streak, Oklahoma Christian needed a feel-good performance on Tuesday night against Dallas Christian (Texas) and that’s exactly what the Eagles put on.

The backcourt trio of Nick Tate, Willie Harper and Kendre Talley combined for 55 points and freshman center John Moon had 13 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots in his first career start, leading OC to a 90-43 win over the Crusaders.

All but two of the 11 players suited up scored for OC (4-3) and everyone saw extended playing time in a game in which the Eagles never trailed and led by double digits for the final 32 minutes.

“It was really nice to reward a lot of the kids that are working so hard in practice,” OC coach Dan Hays said. “But you know, we’re really still not shooting the ball well as a team from (3-point range). When we do that, I think we’ll become really dangerous. Sometimes I forget we’ve got such a young group, with six freshmen.

“We’re a work in progress. If I’ll be patient and they’ll keep working, things will work out.”

Dallas Christian (1-9) literally stepped off the bus and played the game, as the Crusaders’ bus got stuck in traffic along Interstate 35 north of Dallas. They didn’t arrive at the Eagles’ Nest until just before the scheduled game time of 7 p.m. and the tipoff was delayed about 30 minutes as a result.

Both teams started sluggish. Dallas Christian missed its first six shots but the Eagles weren’t much better, managing only a 4-0 lead during that stretch. The Crusaders were within 13-7 after a basket by Michael Haynes at the 13:47 mark of the first half, but OC scored the next 15 points to essentially put the game away. Harper had three 3-pointers and Casey Covalt added another during that stretch.

OC led 44-21 at halftime and built on that advantage throughout the second half. Tate finished with 20 points (on 6 of 10 shooting) and eight rebounds. Harper went 5 of 9 from 3-point range and had 19 points and eight rebounds. Talley continually drove for layups and went 8 of 12 from the field, finishing with 16 points, six assists and five steals.

Harper and Tate “were outstanding,” Hays said. “They shot it well from (3-point range). They were over 50 percent. That was good. And Kendre was outstanding, but he’s always outstanding.”

When he caught the ball, the 6-foot-11 Moon – who started in place of the injured Jordan VanDeKop – mostly had his way inside against the Crusaders, who didn’t have a starter taller than 6-foot-6. Another freshman, forward Jordan Rutherford, also made his first career start and grabbed six rebounds.

Contributions came from the bench, too. Covalt went 3 of 6 from 3-point range and scored a career-high nine points, while freshman guard Deric Shelton scored eight points and had two steals.

“They play well in practice,” Hays said. “They’re a good group and it’s good to see them get those minutes. It’s good to see them produce.”

The Eagles shot 45.2 percent from the field (33 of 73) and 37.9 percent from 3-point range (11 of 29). Dallas Christian shot 25.4 percent (16 of 63) and 11.8 percent (2 of 17), respectively. OC outrebounded the Crusaders 53-38.

Aaron Espinosa led Dallas Christian with 11 points.

OC will close out nonconference play on Saturday afternoon at Cameron. It will be the first meeting between the Eagles and Aggies since the 1984-85 season.