Northwest Missouri 82, Central Oklahoma 70
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (March 13) – Battered Central Oklahoma put up a gallant fight, but fell short at the end against a deep Northwest Missouri squad here Monday night in the finals of the NCAA Division II South Central Regional.
The Bronchos -- down to eight players because of a rash of injuries both before and during the season – saw their spirited post-season run end with an 82-70 setback to the No. 19-ranked Bearcats, with the final score no indication of how close the game was.
UCO, which pulled off back-to-back upsets in making the finals, ended the season 22-10. NWMSU improved to 28-4 in advancing to next week's Elite Eight in St. Joseph, Mo.
The Bearcats pulled away in the final minutes of the rugged, contact-filled contest, outscoring UCO 14-6 in the last 4:14 to turn a precarious 66-64 lead into the final 12-point margin of victory.
Alex Richardson led the Bronchos with 28 points and 13 rebounds, making all eight of her free throw tries while going 10-of-20 from the field. Ashley Beckley ended her stellar career with 10 points – her 47th consecutive double-digit scoring game – and 10 rebounds in joining Richardson on the all-tournament team.
Kylie Mayes added eight points, Heather Davis and Alyssa Fuxa chipped in seven points apiece and Britney Morgan contributed eight assists and five points.
And a battle it was until the final minutes.
UCO trailed 38-35 at halftime and fell into a 50-40 hole five minutes into the second half, but Richardson responded with back-to-back layups and Autumn Huffman hit a 3-pointer from the wing to get the Bronchos within 50-47.
NWMSU pushed the lead to seven again at 62-55 with 8:09 left to play and again UCO got close, getting a layup from Huffman and a long 3-pointer from Fuxa to make it 62-60 at the 6:14 mark.
Richardson canned a jumper from the free throw line and made two foul shots to answer Bearcat buckets and keep the Bronchos within two at 66-64 with 4:35 remaining, but that's when UCO seemed to run out of steam.
The Bronchos missed their next four shots as NWMSU scored seven straight points to open up a 73-64 lead with 2:05 left. Heather Davis' layup made it 73-66 at 1:51, but the Bearcats pulled away at the line, hitting 7-of-8 charity shots in the final minute.
UCO battled the Bearcats on even terms in the opening 20 minutes; with NWMSU taking a 38-35 lead at the break on Gabby Curtis' bucket with 38 seconds left.
The Bronchos trailed by five at 15-10 nine minutes into the contest, but answered with an 11-3 run to move in front. Morgan hit UCO's only 3-pointer of the first half during that spurt and Richardson scored six points, the final two coming on a twisting layup in traffic that made it 21-18 with 7:21 remaining.
It was still a three-point lead (23-20) when Kylie Mayes coaxed in a short hook shot at the 6:05 mark and Mayes scored again with an eight-foot jumper at 4:35 to halt a 5-0 NWMSU run and tie it at 25-all.
Shelly Martin hit her second straight trey eight seconds later to put the Bearcats ahead 28-25 and Curtis' late bucket kept NWMSU's lead at three going into intermission.
Bronchos Fall Short In Regional Finals - UCO Sports
Bronchos, Mustangs Meet For Regional Title - UCO Sports
MSU's goal tonight against UCO is to minimize Williams - Nick Gholson, Times Record News
The last time Midwestern State and Central Oklahoma played here at Hamilton Field House back on Jan. 8, UCO's Dauntae Williams had a double-double 24 points and 15 rebounds.
That helped the Bronchos beat the Mustangs 68-61.
So who's going to guard Williams tonight in the 7 p.m. rematch that will determine the NCAA Division II South Central Region championship and a berth in the Elite Eight?
"Our team," MSU coach Grant McCasland answered.
"Really, it could be anybody because he plays every position. He can play the point, the 5 (post) and everything in between. He does everything. There is nothing he can't do."
Central Oklahoma men a win shy from NCAA II Elite Eight - Scott Munn, NewsOk
Central Oklahoma basketball coach Terry Evans has been patient with the sometimes baffling questions from media.
Sunday night, in a sort-of-indirect way, Evans reminded people, whether it be the press corps or supporters through the press, that his ballclub can't be expected to dance through the NCAA Division II Tournament.
“Whoever gets to this point in the season can win it,” Evans said.
UCO is in the South Central Regional championship game at 7 tonight against Midwestern State. The host Bronchos own a 16-0 mark this season in Hamilton Field House. But that, and the fact Central has won 30 of 33 games overall this season, does not equate into a turbulence-free trip to a national championship.
Wildcats Falter, Finish 2nd - ACU Golf
Haddock Leads Javs at Pepsi Lion Invitational - TAMK Golf
2011 ENMU Hall of Honors Class Announced - ENMU Sports