Bronchos Thorn in Lions’ Paw
Jesheon Cooper, No. 42, reaches over other players to rebound the ball during the Thursday, Jan. 25 game at Hamilton Field House (Regan Rosson/The Vista)
The 16th ranked University of Central Oklahoma women’s basketball team defeated Missouri Southern 75-65 to improve to 17-3 on the season and 8-3 in Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association conference.
“I feel like we had a few players really step up today and help us when a lot of players got in foul trouble,” head coach Guy Hardaker said. “Both teams had a couple of players foul out [of] the game and we were fortunate to have some girls step up.”
Jesheon Cooper added three points, three rebounds and a block, bringing her career total to 154, a new school record.
“It’s pretty amazing that she did this in just two years,” Hardaker said. “The previous player that had the shot block record was a four-year player. She wanted to do it here at home and I’m glad she did.”
Ireon Smith, Megan Hartness and Sadie Mason all played more than 11 minutes, due to the Bronchos foul trouble. Smith played 24 minutes, double her usual playing time, and delivered by scoring 12 points to go along with eight rebounds, three blocks and two assists.
“Ireon’s getting better,” Hardaker said. “She’s the post of the future for us and she stepped up big.”
Hartness added 13 points on 5 of 8 shooting and Mason notched seven rebounds and a block.
Melinda Murillo notched her 10th straight double-digit scoring game, pacing the Bronchos with 22 points on 7 of 13 shooting and six of six from the free throw line. She added four rebounds, three steals and two assists. All but six of her points came from the free throw line and mid-range jump shots.
“That’s her money shot,” Hardaker said about Murillo’s mid-range shot. “She’s shooting a good percentage from three, but the mid-range is her game and what she does best.”
The Bronchos drew four fouls in the first 3:50 minutes of the game, getting in the bonus midway through the first quarter, which helped them take a 17-16 lead. The second quarter was a back and forth affair as the lead changed eight times, with UCO taking a 31-25 half-time lead.
MSSU started the second half on an 8-3 run to tie the game at 34-34. The Bronchos then went on a 12-0 run to take a 46-34 lead late third quarter and a 49-37 lead into the fourth.
The Bronchos had an 18 point lead with six minutes left before two MSSU 3-pointers cut the lead to 12. After missing five straight free throws, the Bronchos hit their last seven down the stretch to secure the win.
The Bronchos shot 39.3 percent from the field and 74.2 percent from the free throw line while holding MSSU to 29.3 percent from the field.
The Bronchos are back in action Thursday as they travel to Warrensburg, Missouri.