FORT SMITH, Ark. (Feb. 2, 2013) – Oklahoma Christian didn’t score a basket for the first 10 minutes and never could completely dig out of that hole on Saturday, falling 62-55 to Arkansas-Fort Smith at Stubblefield Arena.
OC (12-8) lost its second straight game on the road against a top-shelf Heartland Conference opponent. UAFS (13-7) leads the conference standings by one game over Newman (Kan.), which beat the Eagles on Thursday.
The Eagles missed their first 15 shots and UAFS took advantage, jumping to leads of 14-0 and 17-1. OC’s leading scorer, Will Reinke, picked up two fouls in the first two minutes and saw only limited playing time in the first half.
“It’s hard when you get down 17-1 to the No. 1 team in the league,” OC coach Dan Hays said. “We fought back reasonably well and maybe could have won the game if we hadn’t missed nine free throws. I’m proud of the way we fought but we just could not get anything going early. From then on, I thought we played pretty well.”
OC didn’t score until Devan White hit a free throw with 11:06 left in the first half and didn’t record its first basket until Nick Tate’s 3-pointer with 9:52 left before halftime. The Eagles rallied within six late in the first half before trailing 32-22 at halftime.
Reinke made up for lost time in the second half, scoring 19 points, and the Eagles slowly chipped away at the lead, but they never made it all the way back. The closest they came was 54-50 after an 18-foot jumper by Willie Harper with 4:24 left.
Jake Toupal salted away the game for the Lions, scoring their final eight points over the last 4:05.
“This was a tough week,” Hays said. “I knew it would be a tough week, playing the top two teams in the league. Take away the first eight minutes of the game and we played pretty well. … We fought hard and we’ll take some positives out of this.”
Djordje Stojanovic went 8-of-12 from the field and finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead UAFS, while Toupal had 15 points and eight rebounds.
Harper scored 16 points for OC while Tate had 11. OC shot just 34 percent from the field (18 of 53) and 21.7 percent from 3-point range (5 of 23). The Eagles didn’t help themselves at the line, either, shooting 60.9 percent (14 of 23).
Reinke went 11-of-13 from the free-throw line and missed a double-double by one rebound. Hays said Reinke’s early foul trouble hurt OC significantly.
“It disrupted us terribly,” Hays said. “You’ve got the best player in the league get two fouls two minutes into the game and then we didn’t get much support coming in after half. But we shot so poorly in the first half.”