AUSTIN, Texas (Jan. 12, 2013) – Where to begin?
Oklahoma Christian’s game at St. Edward’s (Texas) on Saturday took so many twists and turns it would be difficult to chronicle all of them. But as do so many basketball games, the result came down to this – OC made its free throws in the second overtime (going 4-of-6) and the Hilltoppers did not (going 1-of-6).
Kendre Talley (23 points, six assists, five rebounds) and Will Reinke (26 points, 12 rebounds, two blocked shots) played outstanding down the stretch, but the Eagles didn’t secure their 87-85 win at the Recreation and Convocation Center until Conner Kjer missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer for St. Edward’s.
The numerous OC fans in attendance – at least equal in number to St. Edward’s fans – erupted in celebration after the win, the Eagles’ third on the road this season.
OC played its third straight overtime game, a stretch during which the Eagles have gone 2-1, beating Arkansas-Fort Smith last Saturday and losing at McMurry (Texas) on Thursday before Saturday’s win. OC (9-6) has never lost to St. Edward’s (11-8) in five meetings between the schools, which now both are in the Heartland Conference.
“I saw a great basketball game and I saw our team play totally selfless,” OC coach Dan Hays said. “There was absolutely no attitude from coaches or players, which we had at McMurry. If we had lost, I’d have said the same thing.
“Maybe this will get us rolling like we think we need to roll.”
The Eagles trailed for most of the final 32 minutes of regulation, but rallied from a 13-point first-half deficit and forced overtime on a driving layup by Talley with 2.6 seconds left. OC missed a chance to win at the end of the first overtime when Willie Harper missed a 3-point attempt from the corner at the buzzer.
In the second overtime, OC finally seized control. After the Hilltoppers’ Zilijan Jones missed four straight free throws in the first 44 seconds, Reinke hit two free throws then followed with a lay-in (off a pass from Talley) with 2:29 left to put OC ahead 82-78.
But Shimeek Johnson made sure the Hilltoppers didn’t go quietly. Johnson, who finished with 30 points and 10 rebounds, hit one of his four 3-pointers with 2:14 left. Brandon Troutman answered with an NBA-range 3-pointer at the other end with 1:22 left, but Johnson canned another trey 11 seconds later.
Reinke was hammered by two St. Edward’s defenders while shooting with 38.9 seconds left, but officials called a travel on Reinke instead. After Johnson missed at the other end, OC’s Derek Johnson – pressed into late-game action after fellow inside players Eric Randall and Josh Faurot, along with swingman Nick Tate, had fouled out – made 1-of-2 free throws with 19.2 seconds left.
Jones missed a fifth straight free throw before making the back end of a two-shot opportunity with :05 left, pulling the Hilltoppers within 86-85. Troutman went 1-of-2 from the line with 4.2 seconds left for OC.
That left the door open for St. Edward’s, but Kjer missed the potential game-winner after being bumped by an OC defender. Officials didn’t call a foul on the play, which sent St. Edward’s coach Andre Cook charging onto the court in protest, delaying the post-game handshake line.
The Hilltoppers had a distinct advantage at the free-throw line, finishing 26-of-37 compared to 19-of-23 for OC.
But OC shot 54.4 percent from the field (31 of 57) while the Hilltoppers shot 37.5 percent (24 of 64). Reinke overcame a 2-of-9 shooting effort in the first half to finish 10-of-21 from the field and the Hilltoppers had difficulty defending Talley’s slashing drives to the basket, as he finished 8-of-12 from the field and finished two points shy of matching his career scoring high.
“Will had a subpar first half, then he made a lot of plays in the second half,” Hays said. “Kendre Talley was fantastic. He handled their press. It was a really, really good basketball game. We’ve been on the road for four days and to come in here and do that, I thought our preparation was great and I thought our attitude was wonderful.”
Tate added 12 points and Troutman had 10 for the Eagles, going 3-of-3 from 3-point range in the process. Despite his free-throw woes, Jones scored 15 points on 4-of-5 3-point shooting and Quinton Lilley added 10 for St. Edward’s.