McMurry University had its first season competing as an NCAA Division II institution come to a close on Friday afternoon, falling to Oklahoma Christian University, 66-51, in the semi-finals of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Central Region tournament.
It was the third time this season that the War Hawks (12-15) had dropped a game to the Eagles (18-11), who are also members of the Heartland Conference with McM.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair, with neither team leading by more than six points at any juncture and heading into the locker room deadlocked at 29-29. McMurry received some early-game contributions from other than its usual suspects.
Guards Tory Salazar and Jaryn Koenig – who came in averaging 4.2 and 3.6 points per game, respectively – lit it up for McM head coach Dr. Veronica Snow's squad in the opening segment. Salazar buried a pair of three-point baskets and had eight points, while Koenig added eight points (also two from long range).
In all, McMurry had five baskets from beyond the arc in the half.
The Eagles were able to keep the team's leading scorer, junior Keshia Collins, relatively quiet in terms of points (she had four in the half), but couldn't stop her on the glass. Collins corralled a total of seven caroms in the first 20 minutes to pace either team.
But the second half proved to be the War Hawks undoing, as OC would pull away. McM shot just 19 percent (7-36) from the field during the final period, hitting 2-of-11 from long range. That – coupled with the Eagles' connecting on 15-of-18 free throws in the half – created the separation.
On the night, OC hit 22-of-26 from the charity stripe. McMurry was 6-of-10.
McMurry led just twice in the game, the last of which came with 15:24 left in the second half, following a jumper by Ana Dominguez. Dominguez's bucket made the score 37-36.
But from that point, the Eagles went on a 10-0 run over the next 3:20 minutes to lead 46-37, after a pair of Aisha Martin free throws. By 7:12 remaining, the gap was 13 points (54-41).
McMurry had two players – Rikeita Thomas and Koenig – in double figures. Thomas, a senior who closed out her McM career, had 10 points. Koenig matched that 10 point total.
Salazar did not add to her point total in the second half and freshman Claire Bruffey finished with seven to round out War Hawks' scoring leaders.
Collins was held to just four points in the game, but led McM with 10 rebounds. Thomas and senior Jamie Wilson each had six boards. As a team, McMurry out-rebounded OC by a 48 to 42 margin.
The game belonged to the outside shooters, as just 10 points between the teams was scored in the paint. The War Hawks held a 10-4 advantage in second-chance points. However, the Eagles' bench out-scored McM, 23-14.
Information provided by McMurry athletics department.