EDMOND – The University of Central Oklahoma women’s basketball team downed No. 14 Central Missouri, 70-66, Thursday night at Hamilton Field House. The MIAA win was the third in a row for the Bronchos, who are now 5-3 on the season.
“I’m really happy that a lot of different players played really well tonight,” UCO head coach Guy Hardaker said. “Kaci Richardson, Brooke Rayner, Jaci Little, Caley Young. It helps us so much when we have them and so many others play as well as they did tonight. We won with a really good team effort.”
Kelsey Johnson led the Bronchos with 16 points and nine rebounds, but a slew of help aided UCO Thursday night. Rayner scored a season-high 14 points, Littell added 12, Young scored 11, and Richardson scored seven to give the Bronchos a well-rounded effort.
UCO also benefitted big from forcing 21 Central Missouri turnovers Thursday night.
Central Oklahoma got off to a solid start, holding a slight advantage for a big part of the first quarter. After Central Missouri took an early lead, UCO took the lead with a Rayner 3-pointer with 7:55 to play in the opening quarter. The game was tied, 7-7 and 9-9, but a Richardson layup gave the Bronchos an 11-9 lead and Central Oklahoma led the remainder of the quarter and took a 19-14 lead into the first intermission.
The Bronchos led for 6:35 of the opening quarter. Johnson led UCO with six points in the opening quarter and Richardson added five off the bench to help Central Oklahoma to an early advantage.
Central Missouri used an early second quarter run to retake the lead. The Bronchos opened the second quarter making just 2 of 7 shots in the first five-plus minutes and trailed 24-23 at the quarter’s media timeout.
The Bronchos would not make any more than two shots in the second quarter. Johnson had baskets at 7:44 and 6:33. Central Oklahoma needed every bit of the three free-throws it got from Taylor Dement and Richardson late in the quarter.
Central Oklahoma did benefit from a stingy defense to counter its cold offensive output in the quarter. The Bronchos held the Jennies to just 27 first half points on 38 percent shooting. UCO also forced 12 first-half turnovers to keep it close.
Central Oklahoma played a solid 10 minutes in the third quarter to retake the lead. Central Missouri opened the quarter with a quick 4-0 run but UCO responded to that with a 7-0 run punctuated by another Rayner 3-pointer that gave the Bronchos a 33-31 lead with 7:21 to play. UCO hit 9 of 14 shots in the third quarter and built its biggest lead of the game, 47-38, when Littell hit a 3-pointer with 39 seconds to go in the quarter.
The Bronchos led by 11 again in the fourth quarter thanks again to a 3-point shot, again from Rayner, and took a 56-45 lead with 7:07 to play.
Central Missouri cut the lead to five midway through the fourth quarter, but another run by the Bronchos pushed the UCO lead back up to nine, 65-56, with 2:30 to play in the game. UCM kept fighting though, cutting the lead to five again with one minute to play and then to just two points with 19 seconds left, 66-64.
UCO finished the late free-throw battle to earn the victory.
The Bronchos shot 47.2 percent from the floor Thursday night, hitting 25 of 53 shots overall. UCO hit 7 of 15 3-pointers too and made 13 of 19 free-throws.
Central Oklahoma will stay home this weekend, taking on Lincoln Saturday at 1:30 p.m. inside Hamilton Field House.