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Bison men clinch GAC's Western Division

Oklahoma Baptist Athletics

On Monday night, the Oklahoma Baptist men's basketball team knew it was going to take everything it had to knock off a three-time GAC champion and take home a division title.

Challenge accepted.

The Bison outscored Southern Nazarene 46-33 in the second half and pulled away from the visitors from Bethany down the stretch to claim an 85-76 victory and clinch the GAC Western Division Championship and No. 1 seed in the upcoming GAC Tournament.

OBU clinched the right to host the quarterfinals and semifinals with potential to also host the GAC championship game.

The first part of the mission is accomplished. And it took everything the Bison had in them on Monday night inside the Noble Complex.

Brantly Thompson responded from a quiet night Saturday with a huge 20-point game on 8 of 13 shooting to go with five boards while Jarius Hicklen scored 20 on 6 of 12 shooting including three 3-pointers. Nigel Wilcox added 17 points with seven boards while Simms had 13 points and four assists.

Harrison Stoddart scored 10 with nine rebounds and three blocks while Trey Green had his lone 3-pointer to go with four assists and a steal.

OBU shot its second highest total this season, going 31 of 57 (54%) from the field including 7 of 20 (35%) from deep and 16 of 20 (80%) from the line. OBU out-rebounded the Crimson Storm 32-25 including eight offensive boards and only turned it over 12 times on the night.

On the other end, SNU shot a season-high 28 of 55 (51%) including 10 3-pointers as well as going 10 of 12 (83%) at the line.

The Bison held an 11-2 advantage in second chance points, a 22-10 advantage in bench points and a 44-34 advantage in points in the paint which all played a huge factor into the win.

The two teams lit up the scoreboard in the early going as Stoddart, Branty Thompson, Wilcox, and Jaquan Simms all got on the board in the first five minutes on to take a 10-8 lead.

The Crimson Storm responded with a 3-pointer before Wilcox got his third lay-in to retake the lead at 12-11. SNU rattled off an 11-0 run to take a 23-12 lead midway through the first half. SNU was a red-hot 8 of 11 in the early part of the first half, taking the Bison crowd out of it early on.

OBU found its footing again on offense and slowly began to chip away, but the red-hot Storm continued to hit shots, eventually opening up a 14-point lead at 36-22.

The Bison bounced back with a much needed 8-0 run thanks to a 3-point play from Stoddart, a lay-in from Wilcox and a 3-pointer from Thompson to cut the deficit ot 36-30.

SNU got the lead back to 40-32, but five straight points from Hicklen closed the gap to 40-37. SNU connected on its seventh 3-pointer of the half to take the lead at 43-37, but Stoddart got a lay-in before the buzzer to make it a 43-39 game at the break.

Green opened the second half with a three, thanks to a big-time offensive rebound from Wilcox, to make it a one point game. SNU held on to its lead as the two teams exchanged buckets with the Crimson Storm, eventually pushing their lead to 54-49 five minutes into the half.

The Bison responded with a lay-in from Brantly Thompson and a steal by Stoddart leading to massive jam from Wilcox as well as a free throw to take their first lead since early in the first half at 55-54.

SNU got the lead right back before a 3-point play from Hicklen pushed them ahead by two. After a SNU turnover, Thompson again went to work, driving by his man and getting the driving lay-in to push the lead out to 60-56.

The Crimson Storm reeled four points off to even it again and the race was on as the two heavyweights traded baskets back-and-forth. Five straight points from Hicklen, including a big 3-pointer gave OBU a 69-65 lead, but SNU scored four straight of its own to tie it at 69 with under five to play.

Similar to their last meeting in Bethany, the final five minutes was OBU's time as five straight points from Brantly Thompson and Simms got the lead to 74-69. After a lay-in from SNU, Hicklen finished strong at the basket, plus the foul, to get the lead to six. 

SNU got it back down to four with just over a minute to play, but Hicklen finished with a beautiful fading jumper off the backboard to make it a six-point game. Simms added free throws after a forced turnover and suddenly OBU had an eight-point lead.

The Bison used defense and free throws down the stretch to clinch the victory and the division over their rivals from Bethany.

SNU was led by Adokiye Iyaye with 19 points while Karlyn Kenner scored 18 points with six boards and a steal. Manny Dixon added 13 while Xavier Bryany had 12 points and seven assists.

The Bison moved to 12-4 overall and 12-3 in the GAC with the No. 1 seed locked in. OBU will look to continue to build momentum into the postseason beginning on Thursday night as it travels to Ada to take on East Central. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. from the Kerr Activities Center.