(TAHLEQUAH, Okla.) – The Mules battled back from six points down in the final minute, but came up just short falling to Northeastern State 72-71 on Saturday afternoon at the NSU Event Center.
UCM (10-20, 2-1 MIAA) took an early 3-2 lead over NSU (9-2, 4-0 MIAA) on a three from Ryan Magdziarz. The teams traded buckets in the early going before the RiverHawks grabbed a 13-10 lead with 14:08 to play in the half.
The Mules got a jumper from Dillon Deck and a three from Jordan Epps to tie the game at 15 with just over 11 minutes left. Northeastern State went back in front on a traditional three-point play from Keon Littleton and extended their lead to four at 21-17.
Kyle Wolf‘s three-point play cut the lead to one and a Jon Gilliam trey gave UCM a 23-21 lead with 6:56 left in the half. NSU regained the lead at 27-25 with under five to play, but six straight points from Deck gave UCM a 31-27 advantage. NSU made 3 of 4 free throws in the final 2:10 of the first half to close within 31-30 at the intermission.
The RiverHawks opened the second half on an 8-4 spurt to grab a 38-35 lead, but a three from Gilliam and a jumper by Daylen Robinson gave UCM back the lead at 40-38. NSU went right back in front on Dalen Qualls’ three-point play.
The teams traded the lead on seemingly every possession over the next few minutes. NSU went in front by three, but Ryan Donald‘s three-point play tied the game with 13:44 to play in regulation.
UCM grabbed a 49-48 lead on a Dillon Deck tip-in only to see the RiverHawks go back in front on a pair of free throws from Littleton. The Mules regained the lead 55-53 on a Deck layup, but two Bryton Hobbs free throws tied the game and a three from Michael Harmon gave the RiverHawks a 58-55 lead with 7:03 remaining.
Marcus Sheppard’s tip-in with 4:11 on the clock gave the RiverHawks a three-point lead, but Donald’s traditional three-point play tied it at 60-all with 3:48 to play and Charles Hammork‘s steal and assist to Robinson on the next play gave UCM a 62-60 lead.
The RiverHawks regained the lead at 63-62, but Gilliam drained a three to put UCM back in front 65-63 with 1:58 to play in the game. On the ensuing possession, Harmon hit a trey and was fouled. He made the free throw to give NSU a 67-65 lead.
Four straight free throws gave the RiverHawks a 71-65 advantage before Robinson hit a three to pull UCM within 71-68 with 17.0 on the clock. After Hobbs hit one of two at the foul line to give NSU a 72-68 lead, Robinson drained a long trey to pull the Mules within one at 72-71 with 7.3 seconds on the clock.
NSU turned it over on the ensuing inbounds play, but Hammork’s fade away jumper at the buzzer was no good.
Deck led UCM with 22 points on 10 of 18 shooting. Robinson added 13 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.
The Mules were 29 of 65 from the field for 44 percent and 8 of 21 from three-point range for 38 percent. UCM made 5 of 6 free throw attempts.
Curtis Evans led five RiverHawks in double figures with 17 points, while Littleton had 16. NSU was 20 of 57 from the floor for 35 percent and made 8 of 24 from beyond the arc for 33 percent. The RiverHawks shot 24 of 31 at the charity stripe for 77 percent.
The Mules out-rebounded NSU 39-35 and held a 36-18 advantage in points in the paint.
Central Missouri is back in action after the New Year hosting Nebraska-Kearney on Jan. 4 at 3:30 p.m.