Alva Review-Courier -

Eagles' shooting woes costly against TAMIU


January 18, 2019

OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 17, 2019) – Oklahoma Christian's fast offensive start ground to a near-halt in the second half on Thursday night and the Eagles paid the unfortunate price.

Texas A&M International proved the beneficiary, rallying from a 15-point first-half deficit to steal a 58-53 win from OC in the Eagles' Nest in the Eagles' first Heartland Conference home game of the men's basketball season.

OC (5-10, 0-4 Heartland) shot 45.2 percent in the first half but just 24.0 percent in the second half, slowly watching its big lead dissolve. The Eagles struggled from the free-throw line, hitting 9 of 19 (47.4 percent) and from 3-point range, going 4 of 22 (18.2 percent).

The Eagles seemed invigorated to start the game against TAMIU (5-10, 2-2), quickly building a sizable lead. After consecutive dunks by Roderick Smith and York Benjamin, the latter with 6:52 left in the first half, OC led 26-11, and the Eagles still were up 33-23 at halftime, despite a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by TAMIU's Damon Leach.

The Dustdevils held OC without a point for more than six minutes to start the second half and finished off a 15-0 run with a basket by Caleb Highley that gave them a 35-33 lead with 14:22 left.

OC seemed to right the ship, using a 9-2 spurt to go back ahead 42-37 with 10:28 left on a 3-pointer by D.J. Walter, who scored a team-high 16 points, but the Eagles had only two baskets the rest of the way and TAMIU again took advantage. The Dustdevils led 50-45 after two free throws with 7:03 left by Xabier Gomez, who scored 19 points.

The Eagles never recovered. OC was within 54-53 with 46.4 seconds left after a short jumper by Marcus Blackwell, but the Eagles missed three 3-point attempts in the final 35 seconds and the Dustdevils 2 of 4 free throws in the last 21.2 seconds to clinch the win.

Brent Finn, the reigning Heartland player of the week, led TAMIU with 21 points, while Highley had 10 points and Leach had 13 rebounds.

Besides Walter, the only OC player to score in double figures was Smith, who had 14 points to go with eight rebounds and three steals. Will Lienhard, the leading rebounder in NCAA Division II, grabbed 11 boards, helping OC post a 39-33 edge in that category. Lienhard also blocked four shots to maintain his Heartland lead in that statistical category.

OC will host Heartland rival St. Mary's (Texas) at 3 p.m. on Saturday.


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