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Late rally falls painfully short as Eagles fall 67-64 at McMurry

OC guard Kendre Talley rises toward the basket while being guarded by McMurry's Brandon Golden on Thursday night. Talley led all scorers with 23 points.
OC guard Kendre Talley rises toward the basket while being guarded by McMurry's Brandon Golden on Thursday night. Talley led all scorers with 23 points.

ABILENE, Texas (Jan. 30, 2014) – Oklahoma Christian did everything it needed to do to make a successful rally from a 13-point second-half deficit on Thursday night against McMurry (Texas), but the Eagles’ final shot wouldn’t fall.

Kendre Talley’s long 3-point attempt at the buzzer went off the backboard, allowing McMurry to escape Kimbrell Arena with a 67-64 win over OC, a result that ended the War Hawks’ four-game losing streak while dealing the Eagles their third straight loss.

Talley scored 10 of his game-high 23 points in the final 1:14 as OC (7-11, 3-7 Heartland Conference) took advantage of shaky free-throw shooting by McMurry (9-10, 4-6) down the stretch. The War Hawks led 63-54 with 2:21 left but went 4-of-10 from the line in the final 1:29.

Meanwhile, Talley hit a pair of 3-pointers and a pair of 2-pointers, pulling the Eagles a bit closer each time. The second 3-pointer made it 65-64 with 9.5 seconds left before Brandon Golden, who led the War Hawks with 18 points, hit two free throws with 8.6 seconds left.

OC rushed the ball up the court, but couldn’t find an open 3-point look, forcing Talley to take a well-guarded shot.

“The problem with our guys is not effort,” OC coach Dan Hays said. “It’s not attitude. It’s (that) we’re having a hard time getting everybody playing well at the same time. Our post players had a tough time tonight.

“This team is on a six-week mission to get better, step by step, to win three games in March (at the National Christian College Athletic Association Central Region tournament) to get us to the national NCCAA tournament. That’s our focus now. We can’t play in a conference tournament even if we had a good enough team to qualify, so we’ve just got to get better. I’ve got to stay positive and they’ve got to stay positive.”

OC never trailed in the first half, but McMurry pulled even at 31-31 at halftime. OC’s final lead came at 37-36 on a basket by Talley with 17:28 left.

The War Hawks seized control with a 17-3 run and led 53-40 after Connor Robinson (who scored 17 points) hit 1-of-2 free throws with 10:21 left. OC answered with a 10-0 spurt and pulled within 53-50 on Willie Harper’s 3-pointer with 7:43 left, but McMurry again extended its advantage, only to have to hang on at the end.

“It was a bittersweet comeback,” Hays said. “They let us back in it by missing free throws. … But when that (McMurry) run came, we gave up some baskets and our defense wasn’t good at that time, but it was solely the result of missing shots. We just could not make what I thought were pretty good shots at that point in time.”

Talley was brilliant, finishing 10-of-14 from the field and adding three assists. Nick Tate (11 points) and Harper (10 points) also played well, but the Eagles’ frontcourt struggled. John Moon had eight points and eight rebounds and Jordan VanDeKop had seven points and six rebounds off the bench, but they combined to shoot just three free throws against McMurry’s physical defense.

McMurry went 20-of-28 from the line while OC was 7-of-13. The War Hawks also owned a decisive 43-31 edge in rebounds, led by Alex Lewis, who had 12 boards to go with 10 points. Alfred Perez had 11 points and eight rebounds for McMurry.

Hays lamented three “fundamental errors” in particular – a first-half technical foul on the Eagles for having six men on the floor and two fouls on 3-point attempts by McMurry.

“They get eight free points for (us) just being fundamentally unsound,” Hays said. “That’s what we’ve got to correct, those little things.”

OC next will travel to Austin, Texas, and face St. Edward’s (Texas) on Saturday afternoon.