SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Feb. 23, 2013) – In the competition to determine the best post player in the Heartland Conference, there was little doubt on Saturday – Oklahoma Christian’s Will Reinke took the measure of Kevin Kotzur of St. Mary’s (Texas) for the second time this season.
But Kotzur had the better supporting cast and that proved to be the difference as the Rattlers held off OC 73-67 at Bill Greehey Arena, giving St. Mary’s a split of the season series.
OC (15-10) trailed only 60-59 with 2:49 left, but three straight empty possessions – two of them turnovers that led to St. Mary’s baskets – doomed the Eagles. The Rattlers seized control with an 8-0 run and despite a couple of late 3-pointers by Reinke, OC couldn’t cut the gap to fewer than five points in the final minute.
“It was a great battle,” OC coach Dan Hays said. “It was 38 minutes of really, really solid basketball, then we just lost our composure a little bit late and missed some defensive assignments and fumbled the ball a few times. Give St. Mary’s credit. They made baskets when they needed to.
“I couldn’t be happier as far as our effort and intensity.”
Reinke went 10-of-17 from the field and finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots in 37 minutes, compared to Kotzur’s 7-for-10, 14-point, seven-rebound effort in 28 minutes. Kotzur – honored before the game as the Heartland Conference’s leading career scorer – had just two points at halftime and scored his other points in the final 8:39, after a long stretch on the bench.
Kotzur began the game guarding Reinke but struggled to stop the OC center’s jump hooks and inside moves. When he returned to the game in the second half, Kotzur didn’t match up defensively with Reinke nearly as much as he did in the first half.
“It was a very good matchup,” Hays said. “I thought Will won the matchup. I thought Will played a few too many minutes and late in the game he got tired and missed a couple of defensive assignments, but he was awesome. He played a fantastic game. Kotzur is very skilled but I think Will won the battle.”
OC’s downfall proved to be its lack of offensive production and sometimes-shaky perimeter defense. Only five players scored for the Eagles. Joining Reinke in the star category was Nick Tate, who went 9-of-11 from the field – 5-of-7 from 3-point range – and scored a career-high 23 points. Kendre Talley added 10 points.
St. Mary’s, meanwhile, went 8-of-16 from 3-point range, with five different players hitting at least one shot from behind the arc. Moses Sundufu scored 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting for the Rattlers, while Daryell Taylor added 18 points.
OC led by as many as seven points in the early going and didn’t trail until the 5:22 mark of the first half, but never regained the lead after that. St. Mary’s led 30-28 at halftime.
The Rattlers build their bulge to 46-34 on Justin Alexander’s basket with 13:33 left. Tate and Reinke brought the Eagles back, with Tate’s 3-pointer with 8:11 left tying the game at 50-50.
Talley’s two free throws with 4:21 left tied the game at 57-57. Sundufu answered with a 3-pointer for St. Mary’s before Reinke hit two free throws with 2:49 left.
Kotzur scored with 2:33 left to put the Rattlers up 62-59. OC’s Eric Randall was called for traveling moments later, leading to a basket by Taylor. On OC’s next possession, Kotzur stole the ball and eventually scored, making it 66-59 with 1:12 left. After a missed 3-point attempt by Talley, Sundufu broke free for a layup to give the Rattlers an insurmountable 68-59 lead with 39.1 seconds left.
“We’ve got a good team,” Hays said. “We just haven’t put everything together. Whether we do or whether we don’t, we’ll just have to wait and see.”