(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) – The Central Missouri Mules shot 50 percent from the field and made 11 three-pointers en route to a 92-73 win over Central Oklahoma in the MIAA Tournament Semifinals on Saturday afternoon.
The Mules led by as many as 21 points in the first half and withstood a second half rally by the Bronchos to advance to their fifth conference tournament championship game under Kim Anderson.
The Bronchos (14-14) jumped out to an early 5-3 lead, but that’s when the Mules (21-7) caught fire. Alex Dean tied the game with a layup before Dominique Long drained a three to give the Mules the lead. After UCO cut the lead to one at the 16:31 mark, the Mules scored nine straight points to open a 17-7 lead with 14:16 to play.
The Bronchos cut the lead back to single digits at 17-9, but a three by Jon Gilliam ignited a 16-5 run that gave the Mules a 33-14 lead with 7:54 left in the half. Central Oklahoma scored six straight points to cut the lead to 13, but a 10-2 spurt by the Mules pushed the lead to 21 at 43-22 with 4:48 remaining in the opening period.
UCO started their rally late in the first half scoring the final 10 points of the stanza to cut the UCM lead to 45-35 at the intermission.
The Broncho rally continued after the break as UCO scored the first five points of the frame to pull within 45-40 just 54 seconds into the second half. A layup by Widgett Washington and a jumper from Matt Webb pushed the lead back to nine with just over 18 minutes on the clock. The Bronchos came right back with five quick points to pull within four. A 7-1 run gave the Mules a 10-point advantage with 14:45 to play, but once again UCO pulled to within four with a 6-0 run.
The lead was still four at 59-55 at the 10:41 mark when UCM scored six straight points on back-to-back three-point plays by Dean and Washington. Dean added a thunderous fast break dunk a few minutes later to give UCM an 11-point lead. The Bronchos cut the lead to seven with just under seven minutes to play in the game, but a 10-3 run gave the Mules a 79-65 lead with 3:18 to play and the lead would never dip below 11 the rest of the way. The Mules iced the game at the foul line going 11-of-14 in the final three minutes to pull away.
UCM shot 50 percent for the game, 29-of-58, and made 11-of-25 from beyond the arc for 44 percent. The Mules were 23-of-30 from the foul line for 77 percent.
Charles Hammork led UCM with 16 points and Reggie Stallings had 12 off the bench. Long had 11 points, while Webb finished with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds, his third double-double of the season.
UCO was led in scoring by Christian Huffman’s game-high 18 points. Josh Gibbs had 15 points, while Jamell Cormier finished with 14 and Spencer Smith had 13. The Bronchos shot 50 percent from the field, 25-of-50, and made 8-of-20 three-point attempts for 40 percent. UCO was 15-of-24 at the free throw line for 63 percent.
The Mules had a 36-24 rebounding advantage that led to a 16-2 advantage in second chance points. The UCM bench ousted UCO’s 40-10.
With the win, UCM advances to Sunday’s championship game against Northwest Missouri at 1 p.m. This will be the fifth title game appearance for UCM under Kim Anderson and the 14th overall. The Mules are 3-1 in their previous four trips to championship Sunday under Anderson and 5-8 overall.
The Mules are 4-3 against NWMSU in the MIAA Tournament, including a 1-1 record in championship games, but this will be the first meeting in Kansas City and the first during Anderson’s tenure.
The game can be heard live on 1450 KOKO, 98.5 The Bar and www.warrensburgradio.com with Shawn Jones and Greg Hassler. Airtime on the UCM Sports Network is set for 12:35 p.m. 90.9 The Bridge will pick up the broadcast at tip-off.