No. 25 OCU takes down No. 6 Stillman in NAIA first round

OCU Athletics
Rich Tortorelli, Assistant Athletic Director For Communications

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Oklahoma City University toppled Stillman (Ala.) 101-84 on Thursday afternoon at Municipal Auditorium in the NAIA Division I men’s basketball tournament.

The Stars took a first-round NAIA Tournament win for the second year in a row. No. 25-ranked Oklahoma City (22-10) takes on 11th-ranked Carroll (Mont.) at 9 a.m. Friday.

OCU scored 100 points for the sixth time this season. The Stars buried 15 of 29 (51.7 percent) from beyond the 3-point line and 35 of 61 from the field (57.4 percent). Oklahoma City shot 66.7 percent from the floor in the first half.

The Stars went to 4-3 against ranked teams this season. OCU became the first lower-seeded team in the tournament to win Thursday. OCU went to 49-17 all-time in NAIA Tournament play in its 25th appearance.

“I’m very proud of the effort,” OCU coach Vinay Patel said. “That’s what we’ve been preaching all year. That’s what we talked about. That’s what won us the conference tournament was just effort. Diving after loose balls, you saw Eric Wattree dive after a few of them. We did a good job of finishing the job on the glass. I thought there was a time where we settled and played the clock, and that’s hasn’t been us all year. I’m just really proud and happy to advance.”

Chris Williams boosted the Stars with 27 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Williams, a senior from Denver, hit 9 of his 14 field-goal tries and 6 of 8 from 3-point land. Trae Bryant delivered 19 points and three assists. Bryant, a junior from Wilmington, N.C., shot 6-for-8 from the field and 5-for-6 on his 3-point attempts.

OCU’s Joe Clarke, a senior from New Rochelle, N.Y., produced 12 points and two steals, while Eric McCollum, a senior from Newburgh, N.Y., chipped in 12 points and six rebounds.

Elijah Christman, a senior from Justin, Texas, gave the Stars five double-digit scorers with 10 points. OCU’s second unit came through with 46 points, outscoring Stillman’s bench, which had 31. Mark Howell dished out a team-high six assists as the Stars recorded 17 assists.

“We did a great job defensively early,” Patel said. “We really, really emphasized loading up our gaps and to set the tone and eliminate some driving opportunities. Obviously it’s great when we shoot the ball well, but I thought we really did a good job of sharing the basketball today.”

The Stars took control of the game with a 17-0 run to close out the first period. DaQuan Forrest hit a 3-pointer to put Stillman ahead 43-42 with 4:18 to go.

Darrion Willies led OCU’s onslaught with five points, sparking the run with three free-throw makes. Bryant put the exclamation point on the Stars’ splurge by pocketing a steal and sinking a transition layup, then beating the halftime buzzer by nailing a 3.

Clarke swiped the ball, then went for a 3-point play – the fastbreak lay-in and a foul shot – to give OCU its largest advantage of the day 83-57 with 12:10 remaining in the game.

Howell hit a jumper in the lane for the final margin and to put the Stars over the 100-point mark with 48 seconds to go.