FORT SMITH – UAFS led nationally-ranked Central Oklahoma after each of the first three quarters of Saturday’ afternoon’s nonconference basketball game, but unfortunately for the Lady Lions, their upset bid ended there.
The No. 23-ranked Bronchos shot a sizzling 78 percent from the field in the final 10-minute period and made 10 of their 12 free throws to rally for a 64-57 win at the Stubblefield Center.
It was the fourth nationally-ranked opponent the Lady Lions (3-8) have faced this season. UAFS, which was playing for the first time since losing to then No. 6-ranked Drury on Dec. 4 because of final exams this past week.
UAFS will finish the first semester of play with a road game at Tarleton State on Wednesday and a home game against Harding on New Year’s Eve.
The Lady Lions led 39-36 after three quarters, and the game was tied (48-48) with less than five minutes to play, when Lady Lions senior guard Mariah Green sank a pair of free throws.
Central Oklahoma senior guard Madison Lee drained a 3-pointer with 3:47 left to break the final tie and give the Bronchos the lead (51-48). The Lady Lions were forced to play catch-up from there.
UAFS pulled within one point (55-54) on a fastbreak layup by junior forward Tamera Gulley with 1:22 to play, but Central Oklahoma junior guard Shatoya Bryson answered with a 3-pointer 55 seconds left to push the Bronchos’ lead to four points (58-54).
The Bronchos sank six of their eight free-throws in the final 43 seconds to crush the Lady Lions’ upset bid.
UAFS shot 39 percent from the field (22 of 57) – it was 5-of-12 shooting from 3-point range – and shot 80 percent from the free-throw line (8 of 10). Gulley and Green each had a team-high 11 points, while junior guard Alexsis Brown had 10 points and a team-high five assists.
The Lady Lions out-rebounded the Bronchos by six rebounds (35-29) with Gulley topping off her double-double with a career-high 15 rebounds.
Central Oklahoma (9-1), which was coming off its first loss of the season, shot 46 percent from the field (23 of 50) – it was 6-of-16 shooting from 3-point range – and shot 63 percent from the free-throw line (12 of 19).
Bryson led the Bronchos with 22 points, while senior forward Blake Essington had 13 points and a team-high four assists. Junior forward Ireon Smith had a team-high six rebounds.
NO. 23 CENTRAL OKLAHOMA 64, UAFS 57
Central Oklahoma 11 13 13 27 — 64
UAFS 17 10 12 18 — 57
Central Oklahoma (9-1): Bryson 22, Blessington 13, Smith 9, Chancellor 7, Haynes 6, Madison 5, Hartness 2
UAFS (3-8): Gulley 11, Green 11, A. Brown 10, D. Brown 8, Elkins 6, McDonald 6, Lehne 3, Nelson 2