OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. 9, 2013) – It was tougher than it should have been, but thanks to a big shot by Willie Harper and yet another double-double by Will Reinke, Oklahoma Christian completed a season sweep of St. Edward’s (Texas) on Saturday.
OC nearly blew a 16-point lead in the final 5:34 but hung on for an 84-78 win over the Hilltoppers on Dan Hays Court in the Eagles’ Nest.
Harper made a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left that pushed the Eagles’ lead to five points, part of a 22-point performance that included 6-of-8 shooting from 3-point range. Reinke contributed his 10th double-double of the season with 22 points (on 9-of-16 shooting), 11 rebounds and three blocked shots.
It wasn’t quite as dramatic as the Eagles’ double-overtime win at St. Edward’s (14-12) earlier this season, but it was close.
“We made some bad decisions with the basketball,” OC coach Dan Hays said. “But it’s a win. We’ll take it and move on. It’s a good win over a good team. We’re happy with it.”
OC (14-8) appeared to have a comfortable lead over its Heartland Conference foe with 5:34 left, as Kendre Talley made two free throws to put the Eagles up 76-60. Then OC suddenly self-destructed, committing five turnovers in as many possessions, matching its total from the game’s first 35 minutes.
St. Edward’s took advantage. Conner Kjer hit a pair of 3-pointers during a 17-2 run by the Hilltoppers, and his 19-foot jumper with 1:13 left cut OC’s lead to 78-77.
Talley scored on a driving layup with 1:06 left – the Eagles’ first basket in more than five minutes – to make it 80-77. Shimeek Johnson, who led the Hilltoppers with 20 points, hit 1-of-2 free throws with 52.2 seconds left. OC then successfully executed its offense, giving the sizzling-hot Harper an open look from the left wing.
He buried the 3-pointer to give the Eagles a comfortable cushion. When the Hilltoppers’ James Stukes slipped and turned the ball over, the Eagles could exhale. Nick Tate hit 1-of-2 free throws with 10.6 seconds left for OC.
“Willie has been playing well,” Hays said. “He’s not fouling. He’s really understanding more. We’re talking a lot more about things I think he needs to be doing. I’m really pleased. I thought Nick Tate was terrific in the first half and solid. And then Reinke was Reinke tonight shooting the ball.”
OC shot 51.7 percent from the field (30 of 58) and 53.3 percent from 3-point range (8 of 15). That helped the Eagles overcome a 46-29 rebounding disadvantage.
Harper didn’t score until 2:12 remained in the first half, but it was his 3-pointer in the final minute of the half that sent OC into the locker room with a 37-34 lead. He canned four more 3-pointers in less than 2½ minutes as the Eagles built a double-digit lead. The final one put OC up 62-49 with 12:03 left and the lead stayed at 10 or more points until the late run by St. Edward’s.
“I thought we were going to be able to weather it a little easier than we did,” Hays said. “But you’ve got to learn from it. It’s a constant grind. We’ve just got to keep working. This was a good week for us. We beat two winning teams.”
Tate added 14 points of 5-of-8 shooting and six rebounds for the Eagles, while Talley went 7-of-8 from the free-throw line and scored 11 points to go with four assists.
Kjer and Jeff Campbell both went 4-of-10 from 3-point range for St. Edward’s, which took 34 3-point shots and made 11, a 32.4-percent clip. Campbell scored 19 points, while Kjer added 14, James Stukes had 11 and Harley Nussman had 10. The Hilltoppers shot 40 percent from the field (28 of 70).