The East Central University men's basketball team fell to Ouachita Baptist, 80-83, in the 2016 Great American Conference Championship Tournament Semifinals at Bruin Fieldhouse. The Tigers (22-8) will now have to wait until Sunday night to find out if they will advance to the 2016 NCAA Central Regional, as they came into the tournament ranked No. 8 in the Central Region.
ECU was paced by senior Stirling Thomas, who garnered 23 points and three assists. Junior Braxton Reeves added 13 points, five rebounds and four assists.
The Tigers started the game strong, scoring the first four points before seeing Ouachita (18-12) come back and tie the game at four. The teams traded runs through the first seven minutes of the half, but it was ECU, who pulled away first. The Tigers used a 9-0 run over the next six minutes to push out to a 19-11 advantage.
However, OBU didn't give up and over the next four minutes went on a 17-3 run to gain its first advantage (27-31). While ECU tied the game at 31 (2:15 remaining), Ouachita scored the final seven points of the stanza to lead 31-38.
The second half was a tight battle from start to finish. The Tigers would fight back to within three (51-54), with 11:45 to play and then kept the disadvantage around four to seven points over the next six minutes. OBU then pushed to lead out to nine (66-75), with 5:20 left on the clock. ECU cut it back with into two possessions until a late push in the final three minutes made the game a nail bitter.
The Tigers were trailing 72-79 and went on a 5-0 run to cut the lead to two (77-79), with a minute left. Ouachita then missed four of six free throws in the final seconds to keep the game within three (80-83) and 2.8 seconds to go.
ECU had the ball, but was called for a travel on an inbound play that allowed OBU to claim the 80-83 final.
The key to the game came beyond the arch. While the Tigers hit one more triple (9-8) than OBU, Ouachita shot 50 percent (8-of-16) and ECU just 27.3 percent (9-of-33).
The 2016 NCAA Selection Show will start at 9:30 p.m. (CST), Sunday, March 6 and can be seen live at www.ncaa.com.