For the first time since the early 1980's the East Central University men's basketball team came away from the Sawyer Center with a victory over Southern Nazarene, 78-75, in Great American Conference action.
The Tigers (10-3, 5-1 GAC) were led by redshirt sophomore Braxton Reeves, with 17 points and six rebounds. Junior Aly Hudgins added a career-high 14 points, while seniors Henry Pwono and Brandon Lucas each added 14 points. Pwono added a team-high eight boards.
The opening half was a tight battle for control of the leader board with nine ties and 11 lead changes. The Crimson Storm (7-5, 3-3 GAC) opened with a 4-0 run, but ECU followed with a 5-0 run to start the battle. No team then led by more than three points and a triple by Reeves, with 2:10 left to play, broke the tie score and allowed the Tigers to take a 36-35 lead into the intermission.
SNU started the second half with a 6-2 run in the opening 2:30, but the Tigers followed with an 8-0 run to regain the advantage (46-41), with 15:30 left to play. After a shot by the Crimson Storm, ECU continued to increased their momentum and put together a 12-2 run over the next 2:30. The run increased the lead out to double-digits (58-46).
ECU held the lead between 8-12 points for the next six minutes before SNU started a come-back, going on an 11-0 run to cut the deficit to four (68-72) over a five minute span. Junior Stirling Thomas broke the span, with 1:16 left on the clock, with a floater just outside the lane.
The Crimson Storm kept fighting and took advantage of four-straight free throws to get within two (74-72). Pwono then made two key shots at the charity stripe for ECU, but a triple with 10.6 seconds remaining by SNU got them within one (76-75). Thomas then hit two key free throws and Hudgins recorded a steal with three seconds to go to secure the 78-75 victory.
Both teams had strong shooting days, with ECU earning a slight advantage at 50 percent (27-of-54) to 47.3 percent (26-of-55).
The Tigers will now return home for two games at the Kerr Activities Center Jan. 8-10. ECU will host Southern Arkansas, Jan. 8 at 7:30 p.m. and then Ouachita Baptist Jan. 10 at 4 p.m.
Notes: The win in the first on the road against the Crimson Storm since the early 1980's and just the second win at the Sawyer Center in the all-time series.