OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 5, 2013) – At the end of a timeout with 8.9 seconds left in overtime on Saturday, Nick Tate told teammate Willie Harper that if Tate had the ball at the end of the game, he’d hit the game-winning shot.
Tate backed up that boast, nailing an 18-foot turnaround jumper at the buzzer to lift OC to an 82-80 win over Arkansas-Fort Smith on Dan Hays Court in the Eagles’ Nest.
The win gave OC (8-5) its first-ever win over a Heartland Conference foe in the Eagles’ third try and featured another first – video review of Tate’s game-winning shot. As the Eagles celebrated, UAFS coach Josh Newman charged onto the court, insisting Tate hadn’t beaten the buzzer with the shot. Officials gathered around a courtside video monitor and determined Tate had released the basketball in time.
“He just made a play,” OC coach Dan Hays said. “I thought we deserved to win the game. We controlled it the whole game. We just couldn’t contain them late. We just were so careless with the ball. Nineteen turnovers and I think they were all in our half-court offense. That’s so uncharacteristic of us.
“It was a great shot. It’s been a while since we’ve hit one of those.”
Tate’s shot saved the Eagles from what could have been an exceedingly frustrating loss. OC blew an 18-point first-half lead and, after leading for most of the first 39½ minutes, needed a missed free throw by the Lions’ Jake Toupai with 5.6 seconds left in regulation to escape into overtime.
Once in overtime, the Eagles never trailed, although they allowed UAFS (6-6) to rally from a five-point deficit in the final 48 seconds. Three-pointers by Djordje Stojanovic and Corey Copeland, the latter with 12.4 seconds left, pulled the Lions even at 80-80. Copeland led the Lions with 23 points.
After the timeout, OC’s Kendre Talley took the inbounds pass from Brandon Troutman. The ball found its way to Tate, who squeezed off his shot over a UAFS defender from just inside the 3-point line. Tate, a sophomore from Sand Springs, said it was the first last-second game-winner of his career.
“I was aware of the clock,” Tate said. “The crazy thing is, I’d rather take that shot than a three. That’s just my normal shot. But I was confident.
“This feels good. We needed this. We worked too hard to lose. I’m excited about this win.”
OC center Will Reinke finished with 24 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots. Reinke scored 14 of those points in the final five minutes of regulation and in overtime while saddled with four fouls. He went 6-of-6 from the free-throw line during that stretch.
“He played well without picking up his fifth foul and that was pretty crucial, too,” Hays said. “He finishes with 24 points and has two at halftime.”
Troutman scored 15 points on 5-of-8 3-point shooting for the Eagles. He hit three of those in the first four minutes, staking the Eagles to an early 11-2 lead. UAFS didn’t reach double digits in points until the 6:19 mark and trailed 34-16 after a basket by OC’s Derek Johnson with 3:59 left in the first half. OC led 36-24 at halftime.
The Lions went 5-of-9 from 3-point range in the second half and chipped away, pulling even at 60-60 on a layup by Toupal with 5:19. The Lions took their first lead at 70-69 on two free throws by Copeland with 31.8 seconds left.
Reinke’s lay-in with 14 seconds left put OC back ahead, but Harper was called for fouling Toupal with 5.6 seconds left. Toupal missed his first free throw but made the second to tie the game. Talley was knocked down while driving toward the basket in the final seconds of regulation but no foul was called, leading to overtime.
Talley had nine points and eight assists while Johnson had nine points and six rebounds for OC, which overcame a 56 percent outing at the free-throw line (14 of 25). The Eagles shot 56.4 percent from the field (31 of 55).
Stojanovic scored 13 for UAFS while Dijon Farr had 12 points and eight rebounds and Toupal had 12 points.
The Eagles will go on the Heartland Conference road next week, visiting McMurry (Texas) on Thursday and St. Edward’s (Texas) on Saturday.