EDMOND, Okla. (Nov. 27, 2012) – A few more games like the one played Tuesday night and the old Oklahoma Christian-Central Oklahoma rivalry should be quickly rekindled.
Kendre Talley made two free throws with three-tenths of a second left to lift OC to an 80-78 win over the Bronchos before a raucous crowd of about 1,500 fans at UCO’s Hamilton Field House. Talley’s heroics came after UCO’s Josh Davis – his former teammate at Star Spencer High School – had tied the game by making two free throws of his own with 9.1 seconds left.
“I missed a few of them early,” said Talley, who went 4-of-6 from the line. “We’ve been missing free throws a lot. We shot horribly in Colorado (in a pair of losses). Tonight we had a good shooting night, so I just had to step up there and knock them down. It’s a lot of pressure, but coach makes us work a whole lot to be prepared for that situation. I was prepared for it tonight.”
So, apparently, were his teammates. In the first meeting of cross-Edmond rivals OC and UCO since November 2007, the Eagles won by knocking down their free throws. OC (4-3) went a solid 19-of-22 from the line, led by a 10-of-10 outing from Eric Randall.
OC’s offensive balance showed. Center Will Reinke had 16 points, while fellow frontline player Randall had 15, as did Talley. Brandon Troutman finished with 14 points for OC on 4-of-5 3-point shooting.
The Eagles trailed UCO (1-5) on only two occasions and never by more than one point, but the Bronchos never allowed OC to pull away thanks in good part to Josh Gibbs, who went 10-of-15 from the field and led UCO with 24 points and eight rebounds.
UCO’s final lead came at 56-55 on two free throws by Christian Huffman with 11:20 left. Randall hit a pair at the other end with 10:41 left to give OC the lead back and start a 9-0 run by the Eagles.
The Bronchos hung in and pulled within 68-67 on a 3-pointer by Josh Gibbs with 3:42 left. Talley answered with a 3-pointer with 2:38 left, but Spencer Smith followed with another UCO 3-pointer and the Bronchos trailed only 71-70 with 2:14 left.
On consecutive possessions, Troutman drained a pair of 3-point shots for OC. The latter put the Eagles up 77-72 with 1:11 left, but UCO had one last rally. Jamell Cormier scored with 58.5 seconds left, and after an OC turnover, Davis – who scored 17 points – made two free throws, slicing OC’s lead to 77-76 with 37.9 seconds left.
Talley made 1-of-2 free throws with 27 seconds left. At the other end, Troutman fouled Davis, who made both free shots to tie. Without a timeout, OC inbounded the ball to Talley, who took the ball the length of the court and drove toward the basket. Davis bumped Talley and was called for the foul.
OC coach Dan Hays said in a late-game situation with no timeouts, Talley knows to take the basketball.
“He knows to go to the hole,” Hays said. “To be honest, I just let him play. And he got fouled – there wasn’t any doubt. We turned it over too much late. (UCO coach) Terry (Evans) is really good at mixing up defenses and he kept us off balance in the second half, but the players have to step up and make plays and that’s kind of what happened.”
UCO is on its longest losing streak (five games) since the start of the 2003-04 season, but the Bronchos have been a perennial Division II contender under Evans. Since he became UCO’s coach in 2002, the Bronchos have gone 106-19 at home, counting Tuesday’s loss to the Eagles.
OC-UCO games were common from the mid 1970s through the 1980s, but the series took a hiatus after UCO moved into NCAA Division II while OC remained in the NAIA. The teams played five times from November 2005 to November 2007, but with OC’s transition into Division II, the rivalry appears to be on its way back. The teams already have agreed to meet next season at OC.
OC leads the series 29-9 after Tuesday night, although OC’s last win over the Bronchos came in November 2005. Before that, OC’s most recent win over UCO came during the 1988-89 season.
“It ended up being a really nice, lively atmosphere,” Hays said. “I think in the future … this could be big, couldn’t it?”