By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
EDMOND, OK - The Missouri Western women's basketball team got off to a fast start and had a clean finish in a 71-55 win at Central Oklahoma Saturday.
The Griffons (15-4, 9-2 MIAA) led 23-8 at the end of the first quarter, but UCO (6-10, 3-9 MIAA) held Missouri Western to just 13 second quarter points and the Bronchos only trailed 36-25 at halftime.
Things got even more interesting in the third quarter, as UCO got to within 47-43 with 1:38 left in that period. The Griffons ended the third on a 6-0 run however, and they led by double digits for most of the time in the fourth.
A three-pointer by junior Brionna Budgets with 1:22 remaining put Missouri Western up 69-55 and essentially put it out of reach.
Budgets, who played only six minutes of the first half due to two early fouls, finished with a game-high 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including a 3-of-4 effort from long range. She also had three blocks, three rebounds and two assists.
Junior Connie Clarke notched her ninth double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Junior Mary Fultz had 12 points and six rebounds off the bench. Junior Trinity Knapp finished with 10 points and four boards herself.
Missouri Western won its eighth straight game Saturday, as they outrebounded UCO 47-39. The Griffons were 19-of-27 at the free throw line and had 16 assists, but they also committed 24 turnovers.
MWSU men hang with No. 7 UCO, fall short late
Missouri Western was in the lead for a total of 9:45 in the first half, and kept things to within single digits for most of the game Saturday, but No. 7 Central Oklahoma never trailed in the second half, and made 11 of their final 13 free throw attempts to down the Griffons 65-54 Saturday.
The Griffons got off to a great start, leading 16-9 with 8:49 left in the first half. UCO (17-1, 11-1 MIAA) responded and took a slim 29-26 lead into the locker room.
Missouri Western stayed with it and tied the game three separate times in the second half, but the Griffons (8-8, 4-6 MIAA) never led in the final 20 minutes.
It was still within reach late in the game, as Western trailed 58-51 with 1:43 remaining, but the Griffons had to foul the Bronchos to save time and UCO took advantage, making seven of their last eight free throws in the final minute-and-a-half to pull away.
Sophomore Julius Dixon led Missouri Western with a career-high 18 points on 4-of-9 shooting from three. Junior John Anderson Jr. came off the bench Saturday and had the best game of his Griffon career as well, scoring 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting, including 3-of-4 from deep. He also had two steals and three rebounds.
Missouri Western was a solid 10-of-22 from beyond the arc and they kept even with UCO in rebounding at 31-31, but the Bronchos were an efficient 47.9 percent from the field overall compared to 35.3 percent by Western.
UCO also outscored the Griffons in the paint 32-14.
While the Bronchos have won 10 straight games and are all alone in first place in the MIAA standings for the moment, Missouri Western has now dropped five of their last six, as they continue to operate without starting all-MIAA forward Will Eames, who's out with a hand injury.
Both Missouri Western teams return home Thursday to face Lincoln. The women play at 5:30 and the men follow at 7:30. Both games are on KFEQ (680, 95.3, 680kfeq.com).
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.