UCO Victory Keeps Postseason Hopes Alive

UCO secured a season-saving victory against the Emporia State Hornets 75-65 Saturday afternoon at Hamilton Fieldhouse. This victory keeps the Bronchos’ championship hopes alive with two remaining games, playing well on both sides of the ball for the entire course of the game in consecutive victories.

“I’m so excited today about the energy and passion from all the players that got us a win,” Head Coach Bob Hoffman said after the game. “Just a great game from the team overall, we played very well defensively and were able to get it done. I’m so proud of these guys in that locker room.”

The Broncho defense was much improved from their past contest against Emporia State in the first twenty minutes with the pressure of a potential postseason appearance looming large. 

The Bronchos led 34-33 at halftime, led by Colt Savage’s 10 points and two three-pointers in the final two minutes to close a five point deficit. UCO shot 40 percent from behind-the-arc, compared to the Hornets’ 12 percent mark. 

In their January 28th contest, Emporia State shot the ball uncharacteristically well, knocking down 59 percent of their three-pointers and 60 percent of their field goals leading them to an eight point upset of UCO. 

This time around, The Broncho defense, which has struggled late in games, specifically against three-point shooting, did not allow the Hornets to find much space to shoot and rebounded the ball particularly well. Redshirt-Freshman guard Justin Nimmer continued his recent streak of great play, nearly notching a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds.

UCO surged ahead of the Hornets by 12 in the second half following a six point offensive burst from Colt Savage, who set a career high in points with 19. 

The offensive aggression was high for Bob Hoffman’s squad, not settling for contested shots and driving to the rim regularly. The Bronchos moved into the bonus, allowing them to shoot free throws after every committed foul against them, with just under eight minutes left to play.

Emporia State brought the game within four points with under five minutes left before Broncho forward Dashawn McDowell hit consecutive hook shots in the lane to move their lead back to nine with just under four minutes left. McDowell had been held scoreless until that point, but showed his composure with great touch near the rim to end the Hornet run and ultimately propel the Bronchos to a much needed victory.

Starting Broncho forward Seth Hurd, a Booker T Washington High School in Tulsa graduate, spoke about playing for a premier high school program and constantly needing to perform well in games under immense pressure to win and to do so handily. 

“We always had a target on our back, just being from Booker T (High School),” Hurd said. “It was usually a season-making win for other teams if they could pull out a win against us, so I’m very used to playing games under pressure.”

The pressure has not been any higher all season with UCO coming into the game tied for 10th in the MIAA with Pittsburg State, not owning the tiebreaker. The 10 teams with the best regular season conference record qualify to make the end of season conference tournament that guarantees the winner a berth in the Division-II National Championship tournament. 

The recently ended eight game losing streak hurt the Bronchos’ chances of qualifying for any postseason games. However, with losses by teams neighboring them in the standings last week, UCO finds themselves with a chance to sneak into the MIAA tournament if they can win out for the rest of their schedule and hope for a Pittsburg State loss. 

This victory will give the Bronchos a 6-11 record in MIAA conference play, 9-17 overall, with two games remaining against Fort Hays State on Thursday and a contest with Nebraska-Kearney Saturday, both at home. The games will be broadcasted on 1560 AM and streamable on TheMIAANetwork.com

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