Central Oklahoma survives late rally
Fort Hays St. nearly pulls off huge comeback in regional semi
EDMOND, Okla. – A blowout turned into nail-biter before Central Oklahoma put away Fort Hays State, 81-69 in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II South Central Regional on Sunday at Hamilton Field House.
The No. 4-ranked Bronchos stretched a 38-22 halftime lead to a 22-point cushion (53-31) early the second half only to see the No. 13 Tigers roar back to tie it at 66 and again at 68.
But UCO regained control, getting a tie-breaking 3-pointer from Victor Driver with 3:31 remaining and ending the game with a 13-1 run to post their 30th win of the season and move into Tuesday's finals.
It was the ninth consecutive win for the Bronchos (30-3), who will face Midwestern State Monday for the regional title and a trip to the Elite Eight. The Mustangs upset No. 9 Missouri Southern 75-52 in Sunday's first game.
“It was a great win for our program,” said UCO coach Terry Evans, who improved to 100-13 at home as the Bronchos won their 25th consecutive game at Hamilton Field House. “I was really proud of how tough our guys played. One of our goals was to be tougher than them inside and we did that.
“We knew they were a good team and that they would make a run and boy did they. Teams are one and one at this point in the season and they're going to fight, fight, fight and that's what Fort Hays did.”
Dauntae Williams led the Bronchos once again, finishing with 21 points while hitting 9-of-10 free throws to go with 12 rebounds and six assists. Tyler Phillips added 17 points and seven rebounds, Victor Driver 13 points and Brent Friday 10 as UCO overcame 6-of-27 (22.2 percent) shooting from long range with a 46-36 rebounding advantage.
The Bronchos used an 11-0 run ignited by a June Carter tip-in to break away from an early 6-6 tie and went on to take a 16-point lead into the break. That quickly became a 21-point advantage (48-27) on Tyler Phillips' layup and the lead peaked at 22 when Phillips drilled a 3-pointer from the corner to make it 53-31 with 13:35 left to play.
The lead was 21 at 55-34 when FHSU began its rally, with the Tigers hitting five 3-pointers in outscoring UCO 32-11 over a nine-minute span to draw even at 66-all with 4:20 left.
Williams put the Bronchos back in front with a layup and FHSU answered with two free throws to tie it again at 68 and that's when UCO finally took charge for good.
Williams drove inside and found Driver open in the corner, with the sophomore draining the long-range offering to put the Bronchos on top 71-68 with 3:31 left. UCO forced a quick turnover and Williams found Carter inside for an easy layup that made it 73-68 before the Tigers made one of two free throws.
That would be the last point for FHSU as the Tigers missed their last six shots of the game and UCO scored the final nine points – seven of those from the line – to sew up the victory.