There's something to be said about being familiar with your opponent.
It certainly was a key component in freshman Jarius Hicklen making a big play – a steal to be exact – with 16 seconds to go which led to a go-ahead free throw and a 59-56 victory over league-leading Southern Nazarene Thursday night in Great American Conference men's basketball play at the Noble Complex.
“I heard them call out 'Nick' and I was able to jump the pass,” said Hicklen, who played against SNU's Nick Davis in high school. “We both played together in the same district.”
With the game deadlocked at 56, Hicklen, a 6-3 guard from Dallas via DeSoto High School, made a magnificent leap to pick off a pass, race down the court and draw a foul with 16 seconds to go. Hicklen sank the first free shot, but after a timeout, missed the second as SNU corralled the rebound.
The Crimson Storm brought the ball down and star Jhonathan Dunn, the third-leading scorer in NCAA Division II and the a strong candidate for GAC Player of the Year, saw his floater rattle in and out with five seconds left. The Bison's Rashad Lewis then hustled for the rebound along the baseline as he was fouled with 1.1 seconds to go.
Lewis then drilled both free shots to seal it as SNU was unable to get a good look in a limited amount of time.
The Bison, who 15-8 overall and 10-7 in the GAC, defeated the Crimson Storm for the first time since the two have been together in Division 2. OBU holds a 60-48 advantage in the series dating back to their NAIA days in the Sooner Athletic Conference. However, SNU had won nine straight heading into Thursday.
“So many guys contributed off the bench. We were undermanned (with Kurt Hall and Mohammed Abubakar not playing due to injuries), but we found a way,” said Bison head coach Jason Eaker. “Our guys played super hard on defense. I'm proud of our competitiveness and effort.”
Play inside proved to be critical for OBU as Harrison Stoddart and Dishon Lowery led the way with 14 points each while Jaquan Simms supplied 10. Lowery was 6-of-8 from the floor and pulled down eight rebounds and Stoddart was 5-of-8 to go with four boards and four blocked shots. Both had drawn their fourth fouls in the game but survived to the finish.
Simms knocked down a pair of 3-point shots as did Brantly Thompson, who ended up with eight points. Lewis finished with only four points, but handed out a game-leading seven assists. Hicklen tallied three as did Trey Green and Sayvon Milton, who each canned a trey, after coming off the bench.
The Bison shot 47.8% from the field for the game and were 35% (7-of-20) from outside the arc. The Crimson Storm shot 42.2% from the floor overall, including 30.4% (7-of-23) from long range.
Both teams struggled a bit at the foul line as OBU was 61.5% (8-of-13) while SNU was at 55% (11-of-20).
Micah Speight led the Crimson Storm with 15 points. Dunn followed with 14 and Manny Dixon ended up with 10.
SNU fell to 18-7 and 12-5.
There were eight lead changes in the game as the Crimson Storm's biggest lead was nine in the first half and the Bison's was eight in the second half.
OBU is at home with East Central University on Saturday at 3 p.m.