FORT SMITH, Ark. (Jan. 2, 2014) – In most cases, if Oklahoma Christian hits 10 3-pointers and shoots 33.3 percent from behind the arc, it would be a successful game for the Lady Eagles.
That wasn’t so on Thursday night at the Stubblefield Center. Thanks to a 6 for 31 shooting effort from 2-point range, the Lady Eagles finished just 26.2 percent from the field and fell 59-55 to Arkansas-Fort Smith.
OC (5-6, 1-4 Heartland Conference) nearly rallied from an 11-point deficit in the final 5½ minutes, but missed numerous opportunities to tie in the final 2:16. UAFS (3-10, 3-4) gave coach Louis Whorton his 600th career win, many of those recorded when UAFS was a junior college known as Westark.
Only two Lady Eagles reached double figures in scoring – Krista Stevens with 12 points (on 3 of 6 3-point shooting) and Logan McKee with 10.
“We started out guns-a-blazing,” OC coach Stephanie Findley said. “We hit a cold spell. We substituted and maybe that threw us off a little bit. We got a couple of people with two fouls early in the half, too, including Roz (Hamilton).
“We tend to take people out so they don’t get in more foul trouble and I think that really hurt us tonight. It kind of hurt our rhythm and we just couldn’t find our shots again after that.”
The Lions led 55-44 after a put-back by Candice Followwell with 5:37 left but went more than 4½ minutes without scoring, allowing OC to mount a final rally.
Stevens made 1 of 2 free throws with 2:44 left to pull OC within 55-52. After two misses by the Lions at the other end, OC turned down a chance for a tying 3-point shot and instead went inside, but Andee Wayne missed a contested shot underneath the basket.
After another UAFS miss, McKee had a good look on a 3-pointer but missed with 1:48 left. UAFS missed yet again and Hamilton missed a 7-foot leaner that could have pulled the Lady Eagles within a point.
Justyne Huber, who led UAFS with 20 points and 13 rebounds, ended the Lions’ long drought with a basket with 57 seconds left, making it 57-52. After a timeout, Emma Gade nailed a 3-pointer from the corner for OC with 44.4 seconds left, and a tied ball at the other end went to OC.
Hamilton missed inside and Huber rebounded for UAFS. Chauntel Terry missed the front end of a one-and-one free-throw opportunity with 11.3 seconds left and McKee rebounded. She drove the length of the court but had her layup attempt blocked by Huber.
Huber made two free throws with 3.5 seconds left to seal the win for the Lions.
“I think they got tired,” Findley said of the Lions. “They started missing and we were getting every rebound and giving ourselves a chance. We got it to three (points) and we missed a couple of crucial buckets inside. … That’s the way it goes. Hopefully we learn our lesson.”
The game started well for OC. The Lady Eagles made their first three 3-point shots (by Stevens, Gade and Hamilton) and another 3-pointer, by McKenzie Stanford, put OC ahead 22-11 with 11:03 left in the first half. OC’s shooting woes began soon after, although the Lady Eagles clung to a 31-30 lead at halftime.
OC missed its first eight shots of the second half and Gade and Hamilton both sat out long stretches after each picked up her fourth foul.
Terry’s 3-pointer with 17:21 left put UAFS ahead for good at 33-31. The Lady Eagles didn’t help their cause with 17 turnovers.
Gade made her first career start and finished with six points and eight rebounds for OC. Hamilton scored nine points. For UAFS, Sydney Franklin scored 11 points.