Using a revamped starting lineup, Northwest Missouri State's men's basketball team responded from two alarming defeats with a confidence-boosting 71-57 win over Central Oklahoma Saturday at Hamilton Fieldhouse.
The Bearcats led for the final 37 minutes of the game, growing an 11-point halftime lead to as many as 16 on eight occasions in the second half.
Central Oklahoma never came closer than 10 points over the final 10 minutes.
Northwest improved to 12-4 on the year, 5-2 in the MIAA and stayed a game behind conference leader Central Missouri. Central Oklahoma fell to 6-10 overall and 4-4 in the MIAA.
Northwest, which had allowed 70 points or more in consecutive games, clamped down on Central Oklahoma.
The Bronchos, who rank fourth in the MIAA in scoring, tied their season-low for points and had to score 37 in the second half just to do that. UCO shot just 37.3 percent, went 6-23 (.261) from three and 13-25 (.520) at the foul line.
The Bearcats were much more efficient in all areas, shooting 20-44 (.455) overall, 7-18 (.389) from three and 24-28 (.857) at the foul line.
Inserted into the starting lineup for the first time, DeAngelo Hailey made all 10 of his free throw attempts and three, 3's to finish with a game-high 23 points. Dillon Starzl recorded his fifth straight double-figure scoring game with 14 points on 6-10 shooting.
Alex Sullivan gave Northwest eight points off the bench. Grant Cozad had seven points and 10 rebounds. Bryston Williams also had seven points.
Josh Gibbs scored 20 points to lead UCO. June Carter (12 points) and Christian Huffman (11 points) also were in double-figures.
The Bearcats took control of the game over the final 8:55 of the first half, outscoring UCO 16-6. Their lead hit double-figures for the first time on a three by Conner Crooker that made it 31-20 with 1:29 left.
This held as the halftime score.
UCO hit a pair of three's to open the second half and twice came within five.
Northwest spread the lead back to double-digits with 14:36 left on a pair of Starzl free throws. An 8-0 run capped by a Sullivan three gave the Bearcats their first of eight 16-point leads over the final 9:24.
Northwest continues its three-game road stretch tonight at Southwest Baptist.