Blazers Defeat NAIA #22 IU East 87-82, Lose Heartbreaker to MVNU on Opening Weekend
MT. VERNON, OH - On Friday night, OCU Men's Basketball made a big statement, defeating the NAIA #22 ranked Red Wolves of Indiana University East 87-82.
OCU and IU-East battled back and forth in the first half with no team able to create a large lead. The Blazers rallied late in the 1st half to take a 43-38 lead heading into the locker room.
The Blazers put another run together midway through the 2nd half, taking a 14 point lead at one point. The Red Wolves rallied back to get within 4 points late in the game but that is as close as it would get. OCU knocked down 6 consecutive free throws in the final moments to secure the win 87-82. OCU was led by Trey Vaughan who tallied a team high 22 points on 6 of 10 from three.
The win over IU East was historic, as it was the first ever win on record for OCU against an NAIA Top 25 team in the 34 year history of the program.
The win propelled the Blazers to the tournament championship game on Saturday, where they took on host Mount Vernon Nazarene University. OCU looked to rebound from a 72-58 loss that they suffered to MVNU last season in the exact same tournament.
OCU came out with a lot of energy in the first half, using a balanced attack as they looked to push the tempo. The Blazers erased an early 7 point deficit to tie the game midway through the first half. Ohio Christian would then rally in the final moments of the first half to take a 36-32 lead at the intermission.
Mt. Vernon responded in the 2nd half and battled back to tie the game with ten minutes remaining. A timely MVNU three point basket gave the Cougars a three point advantage with 5 minutes remaining. OCU answered with a three pointer by Trey Vaughan to once again tie the game.
A Wesley Russell runner in the lane gave OCU a two point advantage with under two minutes remaining. MVNU responded with a foul and the basket. After the Blazers failed to convert, the Cougars hit a 12 foot pull up jumper with less than 30 seconds left to take a two point lead with the score 77-75.
OCU had three attempts to take the lead in the final moments but failed to convert, the last coming on a baseline out of bounds play. OCU inbounded the ball and drove the lane with 4 seconds remaining but the ball was deflected away just before the final horn sounded.
OCU committed 28 turnovers in the game compared to 26 by Mount Vernon. Free Throws were a big factor in the 2nd half as OCU was 4 of 7 from the charity stripe in the 2nd half compared to 18 of 24 for Mount Vernon.
James Nelson and Wesley Russell were named to the MVNU All-Tournament team for their efforts on the court this weekend. Nelson combined for 26 points and 19 rebounds in the two games while Russell tallied 33 points and 13 boards. Trey Vaughan shot a blistering 11 of 20 from three point range on the weekend for a combined 42 points.
OCU is back in action this weekend when they travel to Grand Rapids, Michigan to compete in the Grace Tournament. OCU will face Kuyper College on Friday.