Mens basketball tramples OCU in season opener

Jacob Smith

Jordan Stevens, senior, pushes past players from Oklahoma City University at the season opener Nov. 15. Photo by Rachel Johnson.
Jordan Stevens, senior, pushes past players from Oklahoma City University at the season opener Nov. 15. Photo by Rachel Johnson.

Winning a game is one thing. Winning the first game of the season is another. Completely dominating that game and scoring more than 100 points is an entirely different thing. That is exactly how the men’s basketball Nov. 15 season opener, ending 103-51, against the Oklahoma City Stars could be described.

“Obviously, for a first game, you want to go out with a bang,” assistant coach Tres Segler said. “We want to show the nation that we’re ready and that we mean business. Our overall mission of everyone coming with the mindset that we were going to dominate this game was accomplished.”

As the doors to D.L. Legion Coliseum opened and the lights shined brightly in the hallways, students and spectators made their way to their seats. They entered the arena to the sounds of the band tuning up and players stretching and jogging about the court. As more noise began to rise–basketballs bouncing, shoes squeaking, coaches calling out plays to practice and radio music blaring–so did the overall hype for the game. A crowd of approximately 1,300 sang out the national anthem, and then, the game was underway.

Tip-off went easily to the Mustangs as seven-foot-tall forward Matt Pollard soared over his opponent. The Mustangs’ defense was insurmountable, keeping Oklahoma from scoring at all in the first three minutes. MSU had 12 unanswered points by that time, and the Stars were only able to put their first points on the board from a free throw. It was not until more than 13 minutes into the first half that their offense was able to reach double digits. By then, the Mustangs had already put up more than 40 points.

Frustration got the best of the Stars. A technical foul was committed, giving the Mustangs two free throws, which, with just a little over two minutes left in the first half, brought them to more than 50 points.

By the end of the first half, the Mustangs held a commanding 56-22 lead, with staggering statistics on both sides of the ball. The offense had eight triples and 25 rebounds. The defense caused nine total turnovers and drew 12 fouls, all of which the Mustangs capitalized on every time, gaining 25 points. Jordan Stevens, Bretson McNeal and Grant Hershell each ended the first half with 11 points.

The second half proved an even more difficult contest for the Stars. The Mustangs brought just as much energy to the court as during the first half, not letting up or giving their opponents a foothold to rally.

“Our style of basketball is high intensity and high toughness,” Segler said.

The aggressive strategy the defense implemented proved to be fruitful, resulting in only one Oklahoma player, guard Jordan Mason, reaching double digits. It only took three minutes for its defense to steal three consecutive times.

“We’ve always had a strong defensive identity,” Segler said. “That’s how we’re built. This year, though, we have some offensive weapons that have a little more ease when it comes to putting shots in the basket.”

Offensively, the Mustangs continually set the pace of the game, attacking the paint and taking every open opportunity for three-pointers. Bretson McNeal was on fire from behind the arch, sinking three consecutive triples, and was also the first player to reach 20 points.

The Stars had no answer for the Mustangs’ tenacity. Even as MSU’s secondary bench players entered, the momentum of the game was not affected. The Mustangs moved into triple digits halfway through the second half when sophomore Mike Udume put up his first points of the game. In fact, Segler said the bench players are one of the things that the coaching staff is looking forward to most about this year.

“We wanted our reserves to be able to come into this game and play like the score was 0-0, and in that aspect, they succeeded,” Segler said. “We’re blessed to have the depth that we do.”

The Stars were able to score one for the highlight reel, though, when guard Lou Dunbar slammed down an alley-oop in the last seconds of the game to make the final score 103-51. Even so, the large and looming score gap early in the game, coupled with unrivaled resiliency, left no dispute as to who ran the show in the huge season-opening win.

The MSU basketball franchise has not scored over 100 points in more than five years, dating back to a 102-94 victory against Texas A&M Commerce in 2010. Midwestern also recorded a triple-digit score on a season opener in 2011, which was also the first year the team made it to the NCAA Elite Eight tournament.

The coaching staff would not make any predictions about this year’s postseason: however, the coaches said the blowout win provides a good amount of confidence for the team going forward, as well as hopefully draws more attention and build-up from fans about the talent and excitement this basketball season offers.

“We want the crowd to walk away from the game thinking we have a great season ahead of us,” Segler said. “We want to achieve a good first impression. We want the crowd to feel the energy and vibe in the atmosphere from our players and our coaches. We don’t want people to cross their legs, lean back and just enjoy the show. We want everyone, especially our students, to be involved and engaged with our program and their team.”

In the team’s previous two exhibition games, the scores were just as lopsided.

  • Huston-Tilllotson: 108-55
  • LSU-Shreveport : 96-66

The No. 4 ranked Mustangs’ next home game will take place on Nov. 24 at 7 p.m., when they will take on Colorado State, Pueblo. Tickets are available for purchase online or at the Coliseum box office.