For the 3rd time this season at home, the Central Christian College men's basketball game was decided on the last possession, and for the 2nd time, it didn't turn out in the Tigers' favor. The Central men lost a heartbreaker on Tuesday night to the Oklahoma City University Stars, 75-73, with the Stars winning at the buzzer on a last second shot.
OCU is one of the most athletic teams in the SAC this year. They are sitting atop the conference standings, but for the 2nd time this season, the Tiger nearly got the better of them. Central defeated OCU 95-85 a little less than a month ago down in OKC, but on this night it was OCU getting some redemption.
The Tigers led early, but the Stars' athleticism both inside and on the perimeter began to take a toll on the Tigers as the half wore on. With just over 2 minutes remaining in the half, the Stars had built up a 9 point lead, but the Tigers finished the half on a 5-0 run to trim the lead to 4, 41-37, heading into the intermission.
In the second half, Central opened with another 5-0 run to take the lead 42-41, but the Stars responded with an 8-0 run of their own to retake the lead 49-42. The Stars led 51-47 at the 14:38 mark. On the next 5 possessions, the Tigers and Stars traded 3 point baskets. Trailing by 4 at the 12:01 mark, TJ Williams made a free throw to break the cycle and cut the Stars' lead to 3, 57-54. The last 11 minutes was very exciting. There were 4 ties, but every time the Tigers tried to take the lead, the Stars had an answer, or the Tigers had self-inflicted wounds.
With 2:05 remaining, the Tigers tied the game at 71. The Stars retook the lead on a layup off of a turnover by the Tigers. On their next possession, Cam Martin was fouled going to the basket putting him at the line for a pair of free throws with 17.7 left on the clock. He made both to tie the game again, 73-73. After a timeout by the Tigers, the Stars brought the ball down the floor, crossed half court, and held for the final shot. With just 4 ticks left, the Stars' Jonathan Ellis drove the ball from the left wing, to his right, and pulled up inside the lane and floated an 8 footer at the rim. The ball went through the hoop as time expired, giving the Stars a 75-73 victory.
Cam Martin had a monster game for the Tigers. He went 7 of 15 from the floor, including 4 of 9 from behind the arc and was 7 of 8 from the free throw line to lead the Tigers in scoring with 25 points. He was joined in double figures by Jubril Osagie, who was huge inside with 20 points and 8 boards.
"It was an unfortunate ending to a game where I thought we gave a great effort," said Central head coach Tony Romero. "I just didn't think we were very physical the first half on either side of the ball. Throughout the game, we just had too many dumb turnovers, allowed too many offensive rebounds and missed 3-4 assignments in transition that were the difference in the game. At the end of the day, we still had an opportunity and their guy made a tough shot. It is a bummer because our guys have come up one possession short so many times this season. I know my guys will be ready to learn tomorrow and get ready for Saturday."
The Tigers have a big matchup on the road Saturday against the Southwestern Christian University Eagles. The Tigers at 6-11 in the SAC, are in 9th place in the standings, one spot behind the Eagles, who at this point have the final spot in the SAC Tournament in two weeks.