Furious Second-Half Rally Falls Short, Stars Beat Golden Eagles for SAC Crown, 77-72
SHAWNEE, Okla. (March 2, 2013) - Top-seeded and No. 4 John Brown (27-6), facing a 57-35 deficit midway through the first half, pieced together a 21-4 run to pull within five, but seventh-seeded Oklahoma City (17-10) pulled out the 77-72 win, earning the sole Sooner Athletic Conference automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament and clinching the SAC tournament title on Saturday night at Mabee Arena.
Senior guard E.J. McWoods turned in a game-high 24-point performance on 3-of-6 shooting from behind the arc and 9-of-10 shooting at the free throw line while senior guard Abel Galliguez hit a game-high four triples on 11 attempts, chipping in with 18 points. Freshman forward D’Shon Taylor contributed five points, pulling down a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Stars shot 53.3 percent from the field in the first half, limiting John Brown to just 10-of-23 (43.5 percent) shooting through the first 20 minutes, placing the top seed in a 40-29 hole at the intermission. JBU would respond, however, with a 21-4 run over 9:20 that began at the 15:01 mark, sparked by field goals from six different scorers, including triples from McWoods and Galliguez.
After pulling within five at the 5:33 mark, 61-56, Oklahoma City returned the lead to 10 with five consecutive points. The difference would hover around 10 until the final minute when McWoods’ layup fell, drawing the deficit to within eight, 73-65. Both team split free throws, leading to another McWoods drive to the bucket with 30 seconds left. A two-miss effort at the line by the Stars continued JBU’s hopes at a comeback, as OCU fouled McWoods, sending the senior to the line. After a pair of makes, the Golden Eagle defense pressure the Stars into a five-second violation on the ensuing inbounds, returning possession to John Brown down only four.
Oklahoma City fouled McWoods again, placing the No. 2 in the nation free throw shooter at the line again. After another pair of conversions, JBU faced a two-point deficit, 74-72, with 11 seconds remaining and was forced to foul off the inbound. A split at the free throw line by the Stars gave the Golden Eagles the ball, down three, with 10 seconds in the title match.
Pushing the ball quickly down the court, Galliguez launched a contested triple from the right wing, which caught the front rim. John Brown was unable to secure an offensive board and Oklahoma City fended off the JBU thrilling comeback bid by landing a pair of shots from the charity stripe, securing the conference crown.
The Golden Eagles struggled at the three-point line, finishing 8-of-24, and left eight important points at the free throw line, shooting 20-of-28 from the charity stripe. John Brown finished the contest shooting at a 38.6 percent clip from the field, but secured the battle of the boards, 40-34.
Oklahoma City outscored JBU 38-28 in the paint, but the effort of McWoods and Taylor keyed the Golden Eagles to a 38-12 advantage in bench scoring.
After the game, Taylor, Galliguez and McWoods were announced as selections to the All-Tournament squad.
Despite capturing the SAC regular season championship, only 12-team or more conferences are allowed its regular season winners an automatic bid to the National Tournament. This forces John Brown to wait for an at-large bid, with the Stars claiming the tournament championship free pass to Kansas City.
On Wednesday, March 6, the NAIA is providing a free, live selection show with graphics to reveal the 32-team bracket for the 76th Annual Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship. The men's bracket will be announced immediately after the women's at approximately 7:15 p.m. CST on www.NAIA.org.
John Brown’s resume supports a strong chance at an at-large bid as the Golden Eagles won its first-ever regular season championship in addition to sporting an impressive 5-2 record against top-25 opposition.