UCO wins its final LSC tourney
Bronchos beat Tarleton in last Lone Star Conference tournament
BARTLESVILLE, Okla. -- A 14-0 run during a three-minute span in the second half put Central Oklahoma in control and the No. 7-ranked Bronchos cruised past Tarleton State 68-52 Sunday afternoon in the finals of the Lone Star Conference Men's Basketball Championship.
UCO turned a slim 41-39 lead into a big 55-39 advantage with the big scoring spurt that ended midway through the second half and the No. 15 Texans never challenged again as the Bronchos coasted to their fifth – and final – LSC tournament title.
UCO, which is leaving to league to play as NCAA Division II independents next year before joining the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association in 2012-12, improved to 28-3 – tying a school record for wins – with its seventh consecutive win.
More importantly, the Bronchos earned the league's automatic berth into the Division II national tournament and probably took over as the top team in the South Central Regional after previous No. 1 Missouri Southern lost in the MIAA finals.
National tournament bids and the eight regional sites will be announced Sunday night, with UCO expected to be named the host of the South Central Regional March 12-15.
The Bronchos shot a sizzling 56.8 percent (25-of-44) from the field against Tarleton, which was giving up just 52.4 points a game and limiting opponents to 37.8-percent shooting as the top defensive team in the country at any level.
UCO, meanwhile, had its best defensive outing of the season in holding the Texans to 27.5-percent (14-of-51) shooting from the field, including just 25.0 percent (7-of-28) from 3-point range. Tarleton had an 11-game winning streak ended in falling to 24-5.
“It was a hard-fought game,” head coach Terry Evans said. “We knew Tarleton had been playing great coming in and we wanted to make them do something different. Our defense was excellent.
“We executed on both ends and that's why we can out with the win. I'm really proud of our entire team. We had a lot of guys step up for us.”
Brent Friday led the Bronchos with 16 points, five assists and three steals while Victor Driver and Dauntae Williams had 14 points apiece, each hitting three 3-pointers to lead UCO's 10-of-20 effort from long range. All three were named to the all-tournament team, with Williams taking MVP honors.
The Bronchos led 35-28 at halftime and pushed that to 41-30 early in the second half on a Driver trey from the wing, but Tarleton came back with nine straight points to pull within 41-39 at the 14:30 mark.
That's when UCO took command, forcing four turnovers during the 14-0 run that made it 55-39 with 10:10 remaining.
June Carter started the spurt with a 3-pointer, Driver scored five consecutive points and Friday drove in for a layup to up UCO's lead to 51-39. The Bronchos then forced back-to-back turnovers, with Carter and Friday converting those into layups for the big 55-39 cushion.
It was still a 16-point advantage at 61-45 at the 5:15 mark after Friday got a steal and breakaway dunk and the lead peaked at 19 (65-46) on two Tucker Phillips free throws with 4:03 left.
The Bronchos coasted in from there.
UCO trailed 23-21 with 5:49 left in the half before using a 14-5 run to take a 35-28 lead into the break.
The Bronchos tied it on Friday's layup and went ahead 30 seconds later when Williams followed a Tarleton miss with a long 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Friday's 10-foot floater made it 28-23 to cap a 7-0 spurt and UCO made it a seven-point advantage at 35-28 on Tucker Phillips' 3-pointer from the wing with seven seconds remaining.