Aggie Update: OPSU Shocks #5 Wayland Baptist

Brock Kappelmann - February 27, 2019 7:03 am

Dave Beyer

Aggies take down NAIA #5 – and SAC tourney top-seed – Wayland Baptist, 76-67

Plainview, Texas – The No. 8-seeded Oklahoma Panhandle State University men’s basketball team delivered an upset of seismic proportions as it eliminated No. 1-seed – and the NAIA Division I No. 5-ranked team in the nation – Wayland Baptist University from the Sooner Athletic Conference post-season tournament, 76-67, in a quarterfinal game on the road. The Aggies (16-13) will advance to Friday’s (March 1/6 p.m.) SAC semifinal game versus Oklahoma City University, in OKC.

If OPSU Head Coach Aaron Coombs’ crew keeps up their role as “giant slayers,” he may just have to issue them a sling and handful of rocks before each game. The Wayland win on Tuesday was the Aggies’ sixth win over a team ranked in the NAIA top-25 poll.

Not a bad day’s work for a Panhandle State team making its first conference post-season appearance since the 2005-06 campaign.

Early on the Pioneers had firm control of matters, leading by nine points in the first half – 24-15 – at the 9:18 juncture. But the Aggies’ game plan of a suffocating defense allowed them to climb back in the game and trailing by just four at the half, 37-33. In the second half, WBU again built its lead to nine (49-40) with just over 11 minutes to be played.

Panhandle went on an 11-2 run over the next 3 ½ minutes to tie the game at 51-15 on a midrange jumper by Khallid Edwards. With 7:19 left in the game, Breiman Alexander uncorked a three-point basket that put the Aggies on top, 54-53, and gave them a lead they would not relinquish. A Baris Ulker trey put OPSU ahead by a dozen, 71-59, with 1:47 left and took the air out of any comeback hopes still held by the Pioneers.

The OPSU defense held the potent Pioneers offense more than 14 points below its season average of 81.2 points per game. It was a fact not lost in Coombs’ post-game assessment.

“Our ball screen defense was the best it has been all year,” Coombs recounted. “(The Team’s success) really started on the defensive end tonight.

“But what I was most proud of was that we were down by nine points twice and we didn’t waver. To our guys’ credit, we stayed the course and we were able to overcome those runs by Wayland. This was a total team win.

“I told our guys before the game that we still have not played our best basketball of the season. But looking back after the game, I think we came pretty close tonight!”

Edwards finished the game with a game and season-high 24 points. Edwards was a solid 8-of-11 from the field, 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and hit 5-of-6 free throws. He also grabbed five rebounds and dished off a team-leading four assists.

Ulker was close behind Edwards with 23 points on a 9-for-14 shooting effort. Ulker was a key force on the defense side of the court, corralling five rebounds – all defensive – and blocking four shots.

Alexander was the Aggies third double-digit scorer with 16 points. Alexander also hauled in four rebounds and had a pair of assists.


Lady Aggies eliminated from SAC tourney by No. 1-seed OCU

Oklahoma City, Okla. – The first post-season competition for the Oklahoma Panhandle State University in 13 years came to an end in the first round of the Sooner Athletic Conference tournament with a 78-45 loss at No. 1-seed Oklahoma City University. The Aggies finish the year 14-15, matching the most wins in the program since the 2007-08 campaign.

“We came out and battled,” OPSU Head Coach Victor Esparza said. “I thought we played really hard. Our defense was good most of the game Their size advantage was too much in the second half. I was proud of our girls’ effort.”

After one quarter, the Aggies found themselves down by a 15-11 score and trailed at the half, 32-23. Taylor Acosta almost single-handedly helped to keep OPSU in the game in the early going, hitting 5-for-11 from the field, all from three-point range. The rest of the Panhandle squad was a combined 3-for-22 from the floor in the opening half.

The Stars extended that advantage in the second half, outscoring the Aggies 22-8 in the third period to lead by 23 points (54-31) heading into the final quarter.

Much as in the first two meetings during the regular season, Panhandle State struggled to deter the Stars’ strong inside game, as the hosts held a 28-2 advantage on points in the paint. Likewise, OPSU was unable to get many attempts from the free throw line, going 5-of-6, and did not even take an attempt until the 5:26 juncture of the fourth quarter (compared to OCU going 2-for-28 from the charity stripe).

The Aggies sparsity of free throws was likely correlated to the fact that the Aggies were 2-of-21 on two-point shot attempts for the game, and used a long-range attack of 12-for-42 from beyond the arc.

The senior guard Acosta capped her Panhandle State career with a game-leading 17 points, 15 coming in the first half alone. Acosta was 5-of-16 from the field overall, 5-of-14 from long range. She also had three rebounds and two assists, as the only Aggie in double figures.

Junior Addison Munsch added seven points and grabbed five rebounds. Naomi Rodriguez booked six points and senior Monti Regier four. Kyle Baker, Kaylee Morgan and senior Shambri Kelso finished with three pints, apiece. Samantha Davis has a pair of free throws to round out the OPSU scoring.

Senior Hannah Faulks had a game-high nine rebounds, while also dishing off three assists, in her collegiate finale.

“Our program took a big step in rebuilding this year,” Esparza reflected. “The future is bright for us. We are going to miss our seniors; they really put it on the line this season.”


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