Freedom New Mexico
BARTLESVILLE, Okla. — Eastern New Mexico’s first appearance in the Lone Star Conference in five years was a short one.
Victor Driver scored a career-high 25 points off the bench as Central Oklahoma pulled away in the final 12 minutes for a 100-78 win in Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup.
Junior Max Carrier with 21 points and 11 rebounds and Stefan Mirabal added 20 points for the Greyhounds (13-14), the No. 4 seed from the LSC South.
The top four teams from the North and South divisions earn spots in the postseason tournament.
UCO beat the Greyhounds handily, 103-85, during the regular season.
“I thought we played well for the most part of it,” ENMU coach Andrew Helton said. “They gave us problems with their length. I thought if we wouldn’t turn the ball over more than 15 times, we would have had a chance. We had 17 tonight, which is too many against a team like Central.”
There were times in Thursday’s game when it appeared the pesky Greyhounds could pull off the upset. ENMU stayed closed for three-quarters of the game, trailing 68-64 with exactly 12 minutes left.
But the Bronchos (26-3), the top seed from the LSC North and ranked seventh in LSC Division II, flexed their muscles, going on a 19-6 run over the next few minutes and never looked back.
UCO’s Dauntae Williams, the LSC North Offensive Player of the Year, scored 21 points, including 13 in the first half. But he got plenty of help as Driver hit 9 of 13 field goals. Tyler Phillips had 16 points and Brent Friday chipped in with 14.
The Bronchos, who improved their all-time series record against ENMU to 36-9, shot almost 52 percent (34-of-66) from the field and outscored ENMU 40-4 off the bench.
“We got a lot of guys on this team who can step up,” UCO coach Terry Evans said. “I’m very confident in what we have coming off the bench. We’ve got a number of guys who can score, but they understand that only the ones who play defense will get to play. It takes a lot of parts for a basketball team to be successful and so far we are doing just that.”
Central Oklahoma advances to Saturday’s semifinal against West Texas A&M.
The teams traded runs throughout the opening half, which featured seven ties, the final coming on a Carrier layup, which made the score 38-all, with 2:11 left in the opening half. At that point, Central Oklahoma went on a 13-6 run, stretching into the 18:23 mark of the second half.