By Cooper Stanley
The Northwestern Oklahoma State Rangers suffered their first home loss of the year at the hands of a well-rounded and relentless Southern Arkansas University squad on Thursday by a final score of 77-69.
The Rangers started off hot, largely in part to the three-ball, nailing back to back to back three-pointers to jump out to a 13-8 lead. With star player Adrian Motley not suiting up for the Rangers, it was redshirt sophomore Zack Dumas who stepped up.
Dumas took over the game early on, leading all scorers with 19 points after the first half. Dumas was on fire, hitting three-pointers, driving to the bucket, and getting easy buckets for the Rangers at the free throw line. He scored a game-high 23 points.
Unlike the Rangers, the Muleriders didn’t rely heavily on any one player, managing to share the ball enough for eight players to chip in on the first half scoring. Their ball movement and sound team play wasn’t enough to take the lead into the half however, as the Rangers led 38- 37 after 20 minutes of play.
The second half started off with a thunderous dunk from 6-foot-6 junior Trey Johnson over multiple Mulerider defenders. But the Muleriders stormed right back down the court with a monster alley-oop, killing all Ranger momentum and having even the home crowd fans up off their seats.
The game was still up for grabs, early on into the second half, but the Muleriders slowly started to pull away from the Rangers. Cold shooting from NWOSU, as well as strong play from Muleriders CJ Elkins and De’Sean Dockery, who dropped 14 and 17 points, respectively, helped propel SAU to the victory.
The Rangers found themselves down by 14 at one point in the game, at which time Ranger head coach Shawn Dirden attempted to fire up the squad with a late timeout. The Rangers made a late push, thanks to some three-pointers from redshirt freshman Hunter “Big Country” Frisbee, who logged a season high 21 minutes as well as nine points, all of which came from beyond the arc.
With just 1:05 left on the clock the Rangers brought the game back to a six-point deficit, but the Muleriders defended the late surge of the Ranger offense by draining five of six free throws in the final minute of the game.
The Muleriders big men seemed to be too much for the Rangers to handle, dominating post play, as well as hammering home some monster dunks that seemed to deflate not only the rangers, but the home crowd of the Ranger faithful.
The Muleriders improve to 3-0 in Great American Conference play and 5-2 overall with the win; while the Rangers fall to 0-3 in the GAC and 2-4 on the season.
Next up for the Muleriders are the Bulldogs of Southwestern Oklahoma State, while the Rangers take on the University of Arkansas-Monticello Weevils. Both games will be on Saturday.