Bearcats bounce back and cruise at Central Oklahoma

riggertNorthwestAfter an inexplicable home loss to Lincoln University earlier in the week, Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team traveled to Central Oklahoma and came away with an impressive 71-57 victory Saturday evening at Hamilton Fieldhouse.

“We needed to build our confidence up and play with more energy,” said DeAngelo Hailey, who scored 23 points and made all 10 of his free throws. “We played with enthusiasm.

“We were very hungry. We lost two in a row. We had to play with more energy.”

The triumph lifted Northwest to 12-4 overall and 5-2 in the MIAA. Central Oklahoma dropped to 6-10 and 4-4.

“That is a good team. They are really good,” Northwest coach Ben McCollum said. “They are a tough match-up for everybody in conference. They beat Washburn here.

“We got back to our basics of defending and offensively, against the zone, we started to figure it out a little bit.”

For the Bearcats, it was as solid a win as you are going to get on the road in the MIAA.

Northwest started the second half with an 11-point lead and was never really threatened in the final 20 minutes.

One brief challenge by the Bronchos was quickly answered when center Dillon Starzl scored in the paint, was fouled and he made his free throw to give Northwest a 38-28 lead.

An encouraging sign for the Bearcats was the way they handled Central Oklahoma’s zone. Northwest was patient. They worked the ball inside and Hailey and Alex Sullivan made a few three pointers.

“We are going to keep practicing on the zone because they are going to keep throwing it at us,” Hailey said. “We need to compete.”

One of those three-pointers came midway through the second half. The shot by Sullivan put the Bearcats up 44-31.

The only time when the Bearcats appeared to be a bit rattled occurred after they took a 52-36 lead. Central Oklahoma went to a full court, trapping defense that produced a few turnovers.

The Bronchos closed to 52-40 but failed to take full advantage of Northwest miscues. Central Oklahoma missed four straight free throws during that stretch.

“When we turned it over, we sprinted back and didn’t hang our heads,” McCollum said.

Northwest regrouped. Two free throws by Hailey stopped the Bronchos’ little run. The Bearcats stayed comfortably ahead the rest of the way.

“Everybody had a part in this victory tonight,” said freshman Lyle Harris. “It was our best team win. Everybody played to the best of their ability. It was a team effort game.”

Northwest put together the type of first half needed to break a two-game losing streak.

After giving up the first basket of the game, the Bearcats wasted no time taking the lead on a 2-point field goal Bryston Williams that put Northwest ahead 3-2.

Hailey followed with a 5-foot floater in the lane. The best part about it was the basket got Hailey out of the mini shooting slump he was in.

Later in the first half when Northwest held a 15-14 lead, Hailey drained consecutive treys that extended the Bearcats’ lead to 21-14.

“I’ve been very confident in my shot. They tell me to keep shooting it,” Hailey said. “I kept shooting it. My teammates have faith in my shot.”

Northwest continued to play solid defense in the first half and went into halftime with a comfortable 31-20 lead.

It was not a perfect first half for the Bearcats, but it was better than average. Northwest shot 46 percent from the field and held the Bronchos to 26 percent shooting.

— NWMSU Sports Information —