Late free throw lifts ECU men to win

East Central’s Romello Wilbert, a senior from The Woodlands, Texas, hit the game-winning free throw in the Tigers’ slim 51-50 win at Southern Nazarene Thursday night.

BETHANY — Romello Wilbert hit the second of two free throws with 13 seconds left in the game for the go-ahead point in East Central’s tense 51-50 win over Southern Nazarene University Thursday night inside the Sawyer Center.

The Crimson Storm had one last attempt at victory, but Jalen Lynn’s 3-point shot as time expired clanked off the back iron.

The Tigers improved to 2-4 overall and start Great American Conference play at 1-0, while Southern Naz saw a three-game win streak come to an end, falling to 4-2.

Wilbert’s free shot capped a wild ECU comeback.

Southern Nazarene held an 11-point lead, 49-38, with just under six minutes to play, but the SNU offense went ice cold from that point on. The home team went 0-for-7 from the field and turned the ball over five times the rest of the way.

East Central capitalized with a 13-1 run to close out the game and snag the win.

ECU limited the host to just 20 total points in the second half. Over the final 20 minutes, SNU shot just 7-for-27 (.259) from the field, including 1-for-7 (.143) from beyond the 3-point stripe.

Overall, neither team shot the ball well. The Tigers finished 39.6% from the field compared to 33.9% for Southern Naz. ECU made just 2-of-16 (12.5%) 3-point attempts, while SNU went 3-of-16 (18.8%).

Both teams also wasted opportunities at the free-throw line. The Tigers finished 7-of-14 (50%) from the stripe and Southern Naz made just 9-of-16 (56.3%).

Wilbert had just three points in the contest, but pulled down a team-best 11 rebounds and also had four steals.

RS freshman Brennen Burns paced the ECU offense with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting off the bench. No other ECU player hit double figures. Shemar Smith was next for the Tigers with eight points.

SNU got 10 points each from Manny Dixon and Mo Wilson II. Nick Dais added nine points and nine rebounds.

The Tigers are at home at 3 p.m. today when Northwestern visits the Kerr Activity Center.

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Jeff Cali has been covering sports in the Ada area since the mid-90s. He graduated from Byng High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from East Central University.

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