ECU gets last-second win in season opener

From ECU Sports Info.
Teri LaJeunese, Sports Information Director

WARRENSBURG, MO. – The East Central University men’s basketball team opened the 2015-16 season with a come-from-behind, 82-81, win over Concordia-St. Paul in the Great American Conference/Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Challenge at Central Missouri.

The Tigers (1-0) were led by senior Stirling Thomas, with 25 points, four rebounds and two assists. Junior Braxton Reeves added 23 points, three rebounds, a block and an assist. Junior Aly Hudginscame up big on the glass with a career-high 17 rebounds and added seven points and four assists.

“It ended the right way tonight,” said head coach Ja Havens. “I told the team that it was a typical first game because we have some things we need to get better at, but I was impressed with the fight that the team displayed tonight to battle back for the win.”

ECU came out strong and took an early 12-5 advantage in the first five minutes of the game. However, the Golden Bears (0-1) fought back and used a 16-4 run to take a 16-23 lead halfway through the stanza. CSP kept pushing the momentum and pushed out to lead by as many as 14 (25-39), with 3:36 left to play.

The Tigers mounted a come-back over the next minute with a 7-0 run, but saw that erased with a 7-0 rum by the Golden Bears in the next two minutes. ECU scored the last bucket of the half, but went into the locker room trailing 34-46.

The Tigers came out of the intermission ready to battle and slowly cut the lead down. ECU was trailing by nine, with 14:47 left, when the Tigers used a 9-0 run to tie the game at 58, with 12:15 left to play. CSP followed with a 6-2 run over the next two minutes to gain the lead again.

That didn’t stop the Tigers fight, and they again tied the game at 71 and then took a 74-73 lead, with 5:38. ECU kept the advantage in their favor until 1:30 remained on the clock. The Golden Bears then traded points with the ECU, with CSP leading by no more than two points.

In the final minute of the game, the Tigers had several chances to take control, but misses two free throws and a missed rebound had them trailing 79-81, with 15 seconds left to play. ECU picked up a defensive rebound on a missed free throw and rushed down the court to set up Thomas for a three-pointer from the corner to put them up 82-81, with 2.8 seconds left to play.

The Tiger defense then came up big on the inbounds play, knocking the ball away to run out the clock and give them the win.

ECU will return to action Saturday, Nov. 13 at noon when they face Minnesota Duluth in the final game of the GAC/NSIC Challenge.

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