Chris Brannick, Director of Sports Media Relations
PITTSBURG, Kan. – Jesheon Cooper blocked Mikaela Burgess’ shot with seven seconds to play, secured a rebound, and No. 10 Central Oklahoma beat No. 9 Pittsburg State 78-74 in an MIAA showdown Thursday night in John Lance Arena.
Cooper earlier in the game broke the school record for most blocks in one season (55) finished with five blocks on the night, none bigger than the last.
“What a game?” UCO head coach Guy Hardaker said after the win. “Pitt. is so good and so deadly with their 3-point attack. We were going to have to play a heck of a game on defense to get a win.”
Coach asked, and he received.
What would have been the key play of the game for the Broncho defense, if not for Cooper’s last stand, came moments before the junior’s fifth block. The game was tied at 74. Despite two big offensive rebounds for the Bronchos on the previous two possessions, UCO couldn’t get ahead.
So they did it with defense.
Pittsburg State took the ball with 1:27 to play and a chance to take the lead. But the Bronchos put the clamps on and forced a shot clock violation with 57 seconds to play.
After another empty trip on offense, Pittsburg called timeout with 13.5 seconds to play. That’s when Burgess drove into the left side of the lane and found Cooper waiting to deny the shot.
Pittsburg State fouled Cooper after the rebound and then fouled Olivia Mason to force free throws. Mason sank both attempts to put the Bronchos up 78-74.
“That’s what our girls are capable of,” Hardaker said. “That’s what they did early for us to get a lead. They can get after on the perimeter if they want to and they did tonight.”
The Bronchos (18-1, 9-1) held Pittsburg State to 35 percent from the floor. Pittsburg only connected on 31 percent of its shots in the first half.
UCO came out of the gates on fire, making each of the 13 shots it took in the first quarter to take a 29-17 lead. The Bronchos continued to hold off Pittsburg despite cooling off on offense, and led at halftime 40-36.
The Bronchos came out of the locker room and it appeared to be a different ball game. Pittsburg made 3-pointers on its first three possessions, the third giving the Gorillas their first lead of the game. The change of pace forced the Bronchos into a two-point deficit heading to the final quarter.
That’s when the Broncho defense shined. UCO held Pittsburg to 12 points in the final frame on just 4-of-14 shooting, including allowing only one 3-pointer.
Cooper led the Bronchos with 20 points, which tied a season-high. Cooper also had six rebounds and five blocks.
Mason and Marley Anderson each scored 14 points. Mason led the Bronchos with seven rebounds, added two 3-pointers on three attempts, and made all four of her trips to the line. Anderson, who got her points slicing through the Pittsburg defense in the lane, also finished with four rebounds and two assists.
Melinda Murillo scored 11 points for the Bronchos, Shatoya Bryson added seven off the bench, Megan Womack scored six, Madison Lee scored four, and Blake Blessington and Ireon Smith each scored a point.
The Bronchos will wrap up a four-game road trip on Saturday at 1 p.m., playing at Missouri Southern State in Joplin.