LAWTON, Okla. (Dec. 7, 2013) – The shots were falling throughout the second half for both Cameron and Oklahoma Christian inside Aggie Gym on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately for OC, the last one didn’t go in.
Against a team that took defending NCAA Division II champion Drury (Mo.) to the wire in a four-point loss a week ago, the Eagles nearly rallied from a seven-point deficit in the final 56 seconds. But Kendre Talley’s half-court heave banged off the back of the rim at the buzzer, allowing Cameron to hang on for a 77-75 win.
“I like the way we fought back,” OC coach Dan Hays said. “I thought it was a good game. They’ve got a very fine team. I think we’re improving. I think we’ve made a lot of progress in one week.
“Sometimes you don’t always judge things on wins and losses. Obviously, we’re disappointed in our loss but I like where we’re coming from. We’re still very young and developing, but we took a stride. We want to get better every day and I think we got better today.”
A game that included 21 lead changes almost had another in a most improbable fashion, but it wasn’t to be for OC, which shot 53.1 percent from the field (17 of 32) after halftime, compared to 56 percent (14 of 25) for the Aggies.
In its first game against OC since the 1984-85 season, free throws turned out to be the key for Cameron (4-4). The Aggies went 17 of 25 from the line, including 6 of 8 in the final 56 seconds, while OC (4-4) finished 12 of 21 – and just 7 of 13 in the second half.
“We saw some really good things,” Hays said. “We’re taking a little bit better care of the basketball. We’re taking a little bit better shots. Really, the factor, if you look at it statistically, missing nine free throws probably cost us the game.”
Talley nearly had what would have been his second triple-double of the season, finishing with 12 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. Jordan VanDeKop, coming off the bench for the first time this season, went 9 of 11 from the field and scored 22 points. Wingmen Nick Tate (18 points) and Willie Harper (17 points) also finished in double digits for OC.
That foursome provided all but six of OC’s points, but it wasn’t quite enough to offset Cameron’s balance. Will Cook had a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Craig Foster added 19 points and four assists for the Aggies.
Harper swished two 3-pointers in the first 2:05 to stake the Eagles to a 6-0 lead, but Cameron bounced back and the game remained tight throughout. The Aggies led 34-31 at halftime but OC led on six occasions in the second half, the last time at 50-49 on a jumper by VanDeKop with 12:16 left.
Asaad Robinson’s free throws with 10:59 left started a 6-0 run by the Aggies. OC pulled within 55-54, but Kimric Dixon ignited a 9-0 spurt by Cameron with a 3-pointer and the Aggies led 64-54 with 5:58 left and 66-56 with 5:07 left.
The Eagles chipped away at that deficit but still trailed 73-66 after Foster hit two free throws with 55.9 seconds left. A bucket by VanDeKop and a 3-pointer by Casey Covalt pulled OC within 73-71 with 34.1 seconds left before Foster hit two more free throws with 20.4 seconds left.
VanDeKop made 1-of-2 free throws with 12.2 seconds left, making it 75-72. Trevor Smith answered with two free throws with 10.4 seconds left.
Tate hit a 3-pointer with :03 left, making it 77-75 and the Eagles quickly fouled Foster, who missed both shots. Tate grabbed the rebound and passed to Talley, who had as good as look as one could have on a half-court shot.
“We’re getting there,” Hays said. “It’s just going to take us a little bit of time.”
The Eagles will return to action next Saturday afternoon in their Heartland Conference opener, hosting Lubbock Christian (Texas).