Northwestern men hold off late ECU rally

Jan. 30—ALVA — The East Central University men's basketball team aimed for a series sweep over Northwestern Oklahoma State University Saturday in Alva, but in a low-scoring battle the Tigers came up short, falling 56-50 to the Rangers at Percefull Fieldhouse.

East Central fell to 9-9 on the season and 5-7 in Great American Conference play, while NWOSU improved to 9-9 and 7-5.

ECU got out to a quick start, making their first two shots to take an early 4-0 lead. However, Northwestern responded with a 16-2 scoring run to seize control, leaving the Tigers trailing 16-6 midway through the first half.

ECU answered back with five straight points to narrow the gap to five, courtesy of a layup from Keyon Thomas and a 3-pointer from Ryan Kelly, but the Rangers consistently had an answer for every Tigers' basket. At halftime, the Rangers extended their lead to 29-19.

Out of the intermission, ECU made efforts to mount a comeback, with Godsgift Ezedinma hitting a 3-pointer and Bryce Woolridge adding a layup to trim the deficit to 29-24. The Tigers continued to battle back, closing the gap to within one point at 33-32 with 14:28 remaining on the clock, but consecutive 3-pointers from the Rangers boosted their lead to 39-32, nearing the final 10 minutes.

Although ECU narrowed the margin to a single possession on four occasions, trailing by only two points at 52-50 after Malik Nash's successful free throws with 37 seconds left, Northwestern secured the 56-50 win by making all of their last four free throw attempts — two by Cam McDowell and two more from Kabeya Tshibangu.

Neither team found extreme success from the field as the Rangers shot 38.1% as a team while the Tigers were slightly better at 39.2%. Shooting from the charity stripe played a factor in the game, with ECU going 6-for-11 from the foul line while Northwestern was boosted by making all 17 of its free-throw attempts.

The Tigers were led by the trio of Keyon Thomas, Bryce Woolridge, and God, while Ezedinma was close behind adding 10. Wooldridge also came up with a team-best eight rebounds.

The Rangers got 14 points from both Brian Free, who hit four 3-pointers, and McDowell, who finished 4-of-4 from the free-throw line.

The ECU men's basketball team has a pair of home games this week, hosting Harding on Thursday and hosting Arkansas Tech on Saturday.

Note: Ada News sports editor Jeff Cali contributed to this report.