WEATHERFORD, OKLA. - For the first time since the 2000-01 season, the East Central University men's basketball team picked up a victory at Southwestern Oklahoma State, earning a 77-65 Great American Conference win at the Pioneer Cellular Center. It was the first win in Weatherford since Feb. 8, 2001 for the Tigers.
"I am really proud of the way the team battled tonight," said head coach Ja Havens. "Especially in the second half where we did a much better job of rebounding and defending and that became the difference maker."
The Tigers (9-4, 5-2 GAC) saw five players score 10-or-more points in the game, with senior Deron Hill leading the way with 19 and adding five rebounds and three assists. Senior Stirling Thomas was next with 15 points, junior Ben Brown-White 12, junior Donovan Halsel 11 and junior Ishmael Donzo 10 points.
"I give Deron Hill a lot of credit for coming off the bench bringing energy and being a play maker for us tonight," Havens added.
ECU opened the first half on a 5-1 run in the first 1:30, but saw the Bulldogs (8-5, 4-3 GAC) counter with a 9-0 run over the next 1:30. The Tigers then took control again, this time using an 11-0 run, until 8:30 remained in the half, to garner a 21-12 lead.
SWOSU again fought back and cut the lead to one (29-28) over the next three minutes, with an 8-2 run. The Bulldogs kept pushing and used a 6-1 run in the final two minutes of the half to take a 35-37 lead into the locker room.
The Tigers came out on fire in the second half and held SWOSU scoreless in the first five minutes, while going on a 12-0 run of their own. ECU kept up the pressure and didn't allow the Bulldogs to garner a field goal in the first seven minutes, adding just four points to the scoreboard while at the charity stripe for a 47-41 Tigers lead.
The Tigers kept the lead around six to nine points for the next three minutes, before a 5-0 ECU run over a minute span pushed the advantage to 11 (59-48), with nine minutes left to play. The Bulldogs kept fighting, but the Tigers built the lead back up to double digits in the final 2:30 before pushing through for the 77-65 victory.
ECU had a strong day shooting, hitting 45.8 percent of its shots, while holding the Bulldogs to 33.9 percent from the field. The 27 made field goals to SWOSU's 19 were the difference in the game, as the Bulldogs out-rebounded ECU 37-43 and made more triples (6-8) and free throws (17-19).
Another key to the win was points off turnovers, where the Tigers tallied 22 and SWOSU just six. ECU also earned a seven to 16 edge in the turnover column for the game.
The Tigers will now head home to start a three-game home stand against Oklahoma Baptist, Saturday, Jan. 16 at 3 p.m. in the Kerr Activities Center. The streak will also include a battle with arch rival Southeastern Oklahoma State, Monday, Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m.