The East Central University men’s basketball team came out on the short end of a 70-52 decision against defending NAIA National Champion Oklahoma Baptist University in an exhibition game Thursday night inside the Kerr Activity Center.
But new head coach Joe Redmond said his first-ever unofficial official outing was a good measuring stick for his team.
“I think it shows us where we are if we want to be a championship basketball team. Oklahoma Baptist University has an awesome basketball reputation and championship rings for a reason and they showed it out there,” Redmond said.
The Tigers got off to a rough shooting start, hitting just two of their first 15 field goals. And by the time Denarius Darby broke the ice at the 7:13 mark of the first half, the Bison already held a huge 21-7 lead.
“Our guys were a little discouraged offensively in the first half, and we forced a few shots,” Redmond said. “The slow start kind of hurt us. But it’s my first time in this gym, and the first time under the lights for all but four guys in this locker room.”
The Tigers made a game of it with a late first-half run that carried over into the second half. Trailing 38-17 with just 1:20 remaining before halftime, East Central got five straight points by senior Dontae Figgs — one of just a handful of ECU returnees — and a driving layup from Darby to make it 38-24 at the break.
Jamal Edwards’ two free throws at the 16:38 mark of the second half capped an impressive 15-2 Tiger surge that had the OBU lead below double digits at 40-32 for the first time since trailing 17-6 midway through the opening frame. Darnell Davis had four points in the Tiger surge while Chris Lee added a soft jumper in the lane.
After a Figgs score with 14:41 left, ECU was still in striking distance at 43-34. But the Bison — which opened the season ranked No. 6 — scored the next 10 points in a row to gather some breathing room. The Tigers never got closer than 16 the rest of the way.
“If nothing else, we understand what it takes now to be able to run our offense against a championship-type defense, and where we have go get the ball in order to score points,” Redmond said. “There were phases in the game when we played right along with them and showed we belonged on the court with them, we just didn’t do that for 40 minutes. That’s our challenge right there — to take what we did well and do it for 40 minutes. We can take this as a learning point and get better from it.”
The Tigers' top two scorers came off the bench. Davis hit all four of his field goals and finished with a team-high 13 points while Figgs added 11 points. Darby just missed double figures with eight. Antwone Snead led ECU with eight rebounds but OBU dominated the boards by a count of 49-33.
Leading the explosive Bison offense was Emanual Wilson with 19 points and he also yanked down 10 rebounds. Maurice Foster added 14. Kevin Swinton, a 6-8 Wake Forest transfer, also had 14 points — 12 of which came second half — but hit just 4-of-13 field goals.
The two teams struggled from beyond the arc, hitting a combined 2-of-17 tries. East Central also missed 10 free throws (13-of-23).
East Central opens it regular season next Friday (Nov. 12) back inside the Kerr Center, hosting Panhandle State at 8 p.m. Texas A&M-International comes to town the following night (Nov. 13) at 8 p.m.
TIGER NOTES: Oklahoma Baptist is coached by Doug Tolin, a ECU graduate and is a member of the ECU Athletic Hall of Fame. He is also a former Ada High basketball coach. ... Jordan Thompson, a junior from Meeker High School, won the 2010 ECU Women’s Basketball 3-point Shoot Out. Defending champion Casi Rawls failed to make the finals. ... The ECU men’s roster features two Ada High products — brothers Jake and Mike Rudd.