UAFS no longer unbeaten.
FORT SMITH, Ark. – Oklahoma Christian slowed down UAFS’ high-scoring offense just enough on Thursday night to rally past the nationally-ranked Lions 62-58 at the Eagles Nest in Oklahoma City.
The loss was the first for the Lions (13-1, 2-1), who are ranked No. 4 in the latest D2SIDA Top 25 and No. 9 in the latest NABC Division II Top 25. UAFS also slipped into second place in the Heartland Conference – one game behind No. 15 Dallas Baptist and Newman.
UAFS will host Newman (6-7, 3-0) at 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Stubblefield Center.
Oklahoma Christian (5-8, 1-1) held UAFS to almost 30 points less than its season scoring average. The Lions were averaging 87.5 points per game going into Thursday night’s game against the Eagles.
UAFS led by four points at halftime (31-27) on the strength of 39-percent shooting from the field (12 of 31), but the Lions shot only 31 percent from the field (11 of 35) over the final 20 minutes. The Lions shot just 11 percent from the 3-point line (2 of 18) for the game and shot 71.4 percent from the free-throw line (10 of 14).
Senior guards Darrion Strong-Moore and Ladarius Coleman scored 13 points apiece to lead the Lions, while junior guard Chris Crawford added 10 to round out the Lions’ double-figure scorers.
Oklahoma Christian out-rebounded UAFS by six rebounds (46-40) and turned 16 offensive rebounds into 16 second-chance points. Coleman led a balanced Lions rebounding effort with eight rebounds.
The Eagles shot just 39.7 percent from the field (25 of 63) – they were only 2-of-20 shooting from 3-point range – and shot just 50 percent from the free-throw line (10 of 20). Still, four Eagles scored in double-figures – senior guard Elijah Strickland (14), junior forward Roderick Smith (12), junior guard Jordan Box (11) and senior center Miroslav Jaksic (11).
Jaksic topped off his double-double with 10 rebounds.
UAFS never trailed in the game until Strickland scored on a jumper with 5:25 left to play to break a 52-52 tie and give the Eagles their first lead. The Lions tied the game at 54-54 on a layup by Strong-Moore and regained the lead 56-54 on a dunk by senior forward Brett Jolly with 4:42 left to play.
Jolly was called for a technical foul, and Box made the second of the ensuing two-shot free-throw attempt to pull the Eagles within 56-55 and tied the game 56-56 on a free-throw by Jaksic with 4:19 to play.
Oklahoma Christian took the lead for good (58-56) on a layup by Smith with 3:38 left to play, and the Eagles held the Lions without a field goal the remainder of the game. The Lions were 0-of-8 shooting from the field with four turnovers in the final four minutes of the game.
UAFS got within one point (59-58) when sophomore guard Kyree Elder made the first of a two-shot free-throw attempt with 26 seconds left. He missed the second free throw, and Box made one of two free throws and Strickland sank two of four free-throw attempts in the final 22 seconds to seal the game for the Eagles.