EDMOND, Okla. -– Central Oklahoma built a 20-point halftime lead and hung on down the stretch to knock off No. 8 Washburn 72-67 on Saturday.
The Bronchos never trailed and roared out to a huge 42-22 halftime cushion, but the defending Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association champion Ichabods rallied to within three in the final minutes before UCO closed out the upset.
The win ended a frustrating four-game home losing streak — all by three points or less — and improved the Bronchos to 4-8 overall. WU dropped to 8-2 and 1-1.
“That was a huge win for us and I’m proud of the way our guys battled [Saturday],” UCO head coach Terry Evans said. “We really played well in the first half and then made enough plays at the end to beat a great team.”
The Bronchos shot 61.5 percent (16-for-26) in the first 20 minutes to seize their commanding lead, but hit only 7 of 24 shots (29.2 percent) in the final 20 minutes as WU rallied. A 45-35 rebounding advantage helped UCO offset 55.6 percent (20-for-36) shooting from the foul line.
Josh Gibbs led the Bronchos with 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Spencer Smith added 15 points and seven rebounds, while June Carter had 13 points, five boards and two blocked shots.
The Bronchos did a great defensive job on WU’s Will McNeill, the league’s leading scorer with a 20.6 average. McNeill was just 1-for-13 from the field and finished with 14 points because of a 12 of 14 showing from the charity stripe.
The Ichabods opened the second half with a 10-1 spurt to quickly trim UCO’s 20-point bulge to 11 (43-32), though the Bronchos still appeared safe when a short Josh Davis jumper made it 58-46 at the 9:11 mark.
Nine consecutive points pulled WU within 58-55 just two minutes later, but UCO made six free throws in a row to reestablish a seven-point lead at 67-60 with 3:32 remaining.
It was a 70-66 lead at 1:36 after two Washburn foul shots and the Ichabods got the ball right back on a turnover.
McNeill made one of two free throws with 39 seconds left to make it 71-67 and UCO missed two shots from the charity stripe to give WU a chance. Again, the Ichabods missed three shots — with Carter blocking one of them — before Cal Andrews was fouled with just nine seconds on the clock.
Andrews hit one of two free throws to make it 72-67 and Smith rebounded a last-second 3-pointer by McNeill to seal the Bronchos’ win.