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Talley scores 24 and hits late FTs, Moon has double-double in win at Newman

OC freshman center John Moon (left) recorded his third career double-double in the win at Newman.
OC freshman center John Moon (left) recorded his third career double-double in the win at Newman.

WICHITA, Kan. (Feb. 27, 2014) – In the final seconds on Thursday night, Oklahoma Christian put the basketball right where coach Dan Hays wanted it – in the hands of his senior point guard and team leader – and Kendre Talley delivered.

Talley capped a 24-point performance by making four clutch free throws in the final 14 seconds, securing the Eagles’ 86-83 win at Newman (Kan.) at Fugate Gymnasium.

OC (9-16, 5-12 Heartland Conference) completed a season sweep of Newman (9-17, 6-12) and the Eagles won their second straight game after dropping the previous eight. It’s a good time of the season to be playing at your best, and that’s what the Eagles are doing, Hays said.

“You can take those two losses to Rogers (State) and Arkansas-Fort Smith, and that’s really where I thought we turned it around,” OC coach Dan Hays said. “Even though we lost, we played our best weekend of basketball. Tonight, I thought we were outstanding. The score wouldn’t have been this close if we would have made our free throws.”

Talley, who leads the conference in scoring, assists and steals, turned in another stellar performance, going 12-of-12 from the free-throw line and adding four assists. Freshman center John Moon recorded his third double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Nick Tate added 16 points and seven boards.

Jordan VanDeKop (12 points, four steals) and Willie Harper (10 points, six rebounds) gave OC five players in double figures in scoring. The Eagles shot a healthy 52.8 percent from the field and outrebounded Newman 36-29. OC finished 25-of-34 from the free-throw line (73.5 percent)

“What I really liked is we had five freshmen and every one of them played well,” Hays said. “Moon was outstanding. VanDeKop was good. (Jordan) Rutherford came in and was good. Zach Norris was good. Deric Shelton was good. Those five freshmen are now supporting Kendre, Willie, Nick and Josh (Faurot). It’s just a real good feeling to know that these kids are getting rewarded for good play.”

OC led for the game’s final 26 minutes, but the Jets didn’t necessarily make it comfortable. The Eagles were up 38-34 at halftime and 51-46 with 12 minutes left before what proved to be a game-turning 10-0 run. Shelton and Talley each had a 3-pointer during the spurt, with Talley’s extending OC’s lead to 61-46 with 9:10 left.

The Jets, thanks in good part to the hot 3-point shooting of Trae Beck, closed the gap. Beck hit three of his four 3-pointers in the final 3:47 and OC helped Newman’s cause with shaky free-throw shooting. After Talley hit two free throws with 14 seconds left to extend OC’s lead to 84-80, Marquis Cuyler hit a 3-pointer to pull the Jets within one point with 6.7 seconds left.

OC inbounded the ball to Talley, who was fouled and made both shots with 4.2 seconds left. Newman, without a timeout, was unable to go the length of the court and get off a potential tying shot.

“I knew we would play hard,” Hays said. “Sometimes, you don’t know if that translates into the game. Shoot with confidence – that’s been one of our keys the last couple of weeks and we certainly did.”

Cuyler led the Jets with 25 points, while Elhad Emerilahu had 19 points and Jeremy Espinoza had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season (and his second against OC).

OC has one more regular-season game, at Oklahoma Panhandle State on Saturday, then will have some time off before hosting the National Christian College Athletic Association tournament, which likely will start on March 13.