Eagles’ shooting struggles result in 78-68 loss to OCU

Jordan Rutherford scored seven points off the bench for OC against OCU.
Jordan Rutherford scored seven points off the bench for OC against OCU.

EDMOND, Okla. (Nov. 29, 2013) – The combination of poor shooting from both 3-point range and from the free-throw line proved to be too much for Oklahoma Christian to overcome on Friday against Oklahoma City University.

OC shot 23.8 percent from behind the arc and 61.1 percent from the line, while OCU hit 10 of 19 3-point attempts en route to a 78-68 win in the Central Oklahoma Classic at Hamilton Field House in what could have been the last game between the longtime rivals for a long time.

OCU (3-2) seized control with a 12-0 run midway through the second half and the Stars, despite shaky free-throw shooting of their own down the stretch, managed to hold off OC (3-2). During the final two minutes, the Eagles had six possessions that resulted in zero points.

It was a particularly frustrating outing for OC’s backcourt trio of Willie Harper, Nick Tate and Kendre Talley, who combined to finish 11 of 38 from the field and 2 of 14 from 3-point range. Meanwhile, Kaleb Smith went 5 of 7 from behind the arc and scored 21 points off the bench for OCU, while fellow guard Terry Johnson had 22 points for the Stars.

OCU shot 50 percent from the field (26 of 52) while OC shot 40 percent (26 of 65).

“They shot the ball extremely well from three,” OC coach Dan Hays said. “They hadn’t been shooting it like that, so we played them accordingly. But give them credit. Smith really hurt us with some big threes at big times. We shot the ball, not terribly, but we just didn’t shoot it very well timely. Missing five first-half free throws didn’t help us.”

A pair of 3-pointers by Smith and Jamaal Crayton gave OCU a 36-33 halftime lead. Freshman forward Jordan VanDeKop, who led OC with 18 points, opened the second half with a put-back and a 3-pointer to put OC ahead 38-36 and the Eagles were up 48-46 after a free throw by Talley with 11:56 left.

Johnson then hit a 3-pointer while being fouled by Harper and hit the free throw to complete the four-point play. After an OC miss, Smith buried a 3-pointer. OC quickly turned the ball over and Smith followed with two free throws, then another 3-pointer to put the Stars up 58-48.

The Eagles came no closer than six points the rest of the way, even though OCU went just 7 of 18 from the free-throw line in the final 5:36.

“What we’ve got to do is when things aren’t going good, we’ve got to dig down and just play a little better,” Hays said. “We’re a little immature and we’re a little young. What we’ve got to have is our veterans who have played a lot of minutes … step it up a little bit.

“I can only remember about two bad shots that we took. We’ve just got to step up and make those shots and I think we will.”

Talley finished with 14 points and Tate had 11 for OC. Hays was pleased not only with the play of VanDeKop but also that of forward Jordan Rutherford and center John Moon, a pair of freshmen who each scored seven points off the bench.

It’s unlikely OC and OCU – which were rivals in the Sooner Athletic Conference from the 1985-86 season through the 2011-12 season – will play again in the near future, as OC in the second year of the NCAA Division II membership process while OCU remains a member of the NAIA. For the time being, OCU leads the overall series 46-22.

OC will play another longtime rival, Southern Nazarene, on Saturday in the UCO Classic. OC beat SNU 98-83 earlier this season.