Men’s Basketball: Bronchos Top Central Missouri

Men’s Basketball: Bronchos Top Central Missouri

The UCO men's basketball team got a big win last week against Central Missouri.

Junior Jake Hammond defends the home basket at the UCO vs. Central Missouri Men’s game at the Hamilton Field House on February 2, 2017. (Elizabeth Roberts/ The Vista).

The UCO Men’s basketball team (13-7, 8-4) defeated Central Missouri (14-6, 8-4) 58-54 in a MIAA matchup on Thursday.

Marquis Johnson and Jake Hammond both led the Bronchos with 12 points each. Hammond also finished with nine rebounds and three blocked shots for the game.

The first five minutes of the game for the Bronchos were plagued by turnovers, resulting in an early 10-3 deficit. Marquis Johnson’s early 3-pointers kept UCO within striking distance as the team started to warm up.

UCO began making a push and, with the help of a Demari Edwards’ 3-point shot, cut Central Missouri’s lead to 3 points with 12 minutes left in the first half. The Mules however, led by Kyle Wolf, capitalized off the Bronchos mistakes to take a 20-12 lead.

The Mules carried all the momentum, but the Bronchos rallied together as they slowly chipped away at the Central Missouri lead.

“We just kept fighting and plugging away,” UCO head coach Tom Hankins said.

With less than three minutes remaining, UCO quickly mounted a 7-0 run to cut the Mules lead to just one point. Jordan London’s 3-pointer would cap a 14-2 Broncho run, as the team stormed back to take a 24-22 lead heading into halftime.

“When we started getting the ball inside and started driving it more, that’s when things opened up for us,” Hankins said.

UCO shot just 33% in the first half, but behind a suffocating defense, held the Mules to 31% shooting in the first half and only 25% from the 3-point line.

After taking 13 3-point shots in the first half, the Bronchos began to take the ball inside, which resulted in the team taking 15 free throws in the second half. UCO was able to convert 18-19 free throws.

Early in the second half, center Jake Hammond grabbed a pass from a teammate and jumped through a sea of defenders to hammer down a two-handed flush, giving the Bronchos a 34-27 lead and forcing a timeout from Central Missouri.

Hammond continued a productive second half by driving the lane and making a layup with contact to put the Bronchos up 42-37 halfway through the second. Hammond a 67% free throw shooter on the season, converted 86% of his attempts at the line in the game.

UCO followed up their stifling defense from the first half with a lock-down performance of Central Missouri’s leading scorer. Wolf, who scored 13 out of his team’s first 15 points, did not score again until the 8-minute mark of the second half.

With the Bronchos leading by two points with five minutes remaining, Corbin Byford, who had 8 points and 7 rebounds, hit a hook shot over the outstretched arms of a Central Missouri defender to beat the shot clock and put UCO back up by four, but the Mules wouldn’t go away.

With under a minute remaining in the game, Central Missouri hit a 3-point shot to trim the Broncho lead to just two points and after forcing a miss on the other end, called timeout and had the ball with 27 seconds left.

Coming out of the timeout, the Bronchos switched every screen, trying to confuse the Central Missouri playmakers. The Mules got the ball into the post with Hammond defending and the Bronchos were able to force a travel with 10 seconds left.

The Mules fouled Josh Holliday on the proceeding inbound pass, hoping for a missed free throw.

Holliday sank both free throws with ease, clinching a 58-54 victory over the Mules.

“He’s made big free throws for us before, so I had a lot of confidence in him,” Hankins said.

The Bronchos will play Southwest Baptist University at home on Saturday at 3:30.

 

 

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