Free-throw shooting dooms Eagles in 77-74 loss to Rogers State

OC forward Jordan VanDeKop looks for an opening against Rogers State's Damion Hooks during Thursday night's game. VanDeKop led the Eagles with 17 points.
OC forward Jordan VanDeKop looks for an opening against Rogers State's Damion Hooks during Thursday night's game. VanDeKop led the Eagles with 17 points.

OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. 13, 2014) – Oklahoma Christian’s portion of the stat sheet following Thursday night’s game was sterling – with the exception of one category, one that proved to be the Eagles’ downfall against Rogers State.

On the verge of upsetting the Heartland Conference’s third-place team, OC went 10-of-18 from the free-throw line, with all of those misses coming in the second half. That put the Eagles behind and they couldn’t quite catch up, falling 77-74 to the Hillcats in the Eagles’ Nest.

OC (7-15, 3-11 Heartland Conference) had a chance to tie in the final moments, but Rogers State’s defense forced Kendre Talley into a long, contested 3-point attempt that banged off the side of the rim as time expired.

“I feel sorry for these kids in the locker room,” OC coach Dan Hays said. “They gave a great effort. They really, really wanted to win this game. We played good basketball. We had a couple of unforced turnovers and all those free throws were unforced turnovers. But I’m proud of the kids. We’re working hard. We’re getting a little better. Give Rogers State some credit. They’re a good team.”

There was plenty to like from the Eagles against Rogers State (15-8, 10-5). Five OC players scored in double figures, led by Jordan VanDeKop, who went 7-of-9 from the field (2-of-2 from 3-point range) and scored 17 points to go with six assists. Willie Harper had 16 points and Talley finished with his third double-double of the season (along with one triple-double), finishing with 15 points and 10 assists.

John Moon had 14 points and seven rebounds and matched his career high with five blocked shots. Nick Tate made all four of his shots – three of those from 3-point range – and scored 11 points. The Eagles shot a healthy 54 percent.

“We haven’t lost many games when we’ve shot 54 percent from the field,” Hays said. “But we missed eight second-half free throws and had some untimely turnovers.”

OC never trailed in the first half, leading by as many as nine points before settling for a 38-36 halftime advantage. The teams swapped the lead five times in the second half, with OC’s last lead coming at 57-56 after a 3-pointer by Tate with 10:58 left.

J.C. Hartzler scored seven of his 17 points during an 11-1 run by the Hillcats, which gave them a 67-58 lead with 7:20 left. But the Eagles steadily closed the gap, holding Rogers State to one basket during the final 4½ minutes.

Talley pulled OC within 72-69 with two free throws with 3:34 left. Robinson Odoch Opong hit 1-of-2 free throws for the Hillcats with 3:19 left and Moon did the same for OC at the 2:57 mark, making it 73-70. Rogers State turned the ball over on its next two possessions but the Eagles couldn’t take advantage, with Harper missing a contested layup, then a 3-point attempt.

After Damion Hooks missed for Rogers State, Talley hit a 16-foot jumper to cut OC’s deficit to 73-72. Hooks, who led the Hillcats with 21 points, answered with a 16-foot jumper with 17.5 seconds left. Talley then drove for a layup with 11 seconds left, making it 75-74, before Hooks made two free t hrows with 8.8 seconds left.

Hartzler had 17 points and eight assists for Rogers State, while Odoch Opong scored 12 points and had four steals.