BETHANY, Okla. – Oklahoma City University earned an impressive 13th consecutive 25-win season as the Stars won a hard-fought 66-60 battle at Southern Nazarene to clinch the Sooner Athletic Conference regular season crown Saturday at the Sawyer Center.
The Stars, ranked second in NAIA Division I women’s basketball move to 25-2, 20-2 in the Sooner Athletic Conference. No. 18 Southern Nazarene takes the second spot in the conference with a 24-6, 18-4 record.
OCU plays host to the SAC Tournament March 3-5, where the Stars will be the No. 1 seed. Game time for the Stars’ quarterfinal game is expected to be at 2:15 p.m. on Thurs., March 3 against Oklahoma Baptist. The Stars swept the Lady Bison with 93-59 and 98-64 wins this season.
“We did not want to share this title,” OCU coach Rob Edmisson said. “When you look over what we’ve done over the course of the season and winning games by an average of 25 to 30 points in this conference, we felt like we deserved it. We wanted to be the outright champions so I’m really proud of our kids for doing that and doing it in a tough environment.”
OCU’s Desiree Jeffries and Lauren Gober combined for 17 first half points as the Stars built an 11-point lead. Gober sunk a basket near the top of the key with 4:54 to play to put the score at 34-23. The Stars went cold to finish the first half as they allowed Southern Nazarene to end on a 9-0 spurt. OCU didn’t make a point for nearly the last five minutes as the Crimson Storm closed the gap to 34-32 at halftime.
“I told our kids before the game, you’re going to tell me a lot today about whether or not we can handle adversity, not only next week in the tournament but especially at the national tournament,” Edmisson said. “I thought today showed me and showed our staff that when we get to Jackson, Tenn., we’ve got some toughness in us, that we can grind things a little bit and get it done.”
The Stars started the second half with a 12-3 run to make the game to a more comfortable 46-34 OCU advantage. The Crimson Storm battled back make the score 60-56 in favor of the Stars. Audra Skimbo put in a layup as the shot clock expired with 3:31 to play to narrow the gap to four points. OCU’s tough defense in the closing minutes was coupled with clutch free throws by Donica Cosby, Taylor Booze and Jeffries as the Stars hung on for the 66-60 win.
Jeffries, a sophomore from Oklahoma City, posted a team-high 13 points and eight rebounds for the Stars. Cosby, a senior from Coldwater, Miss., put in 13 points and Gober, a sophomore from Newcastle, Okla., added 12 points.
Abbey Marra posted a banner day for Southern Nazarene, finishing with her 16th double-double of the season with 20 points and 19 rebounds to lead the Crimson Storm.
Southern Nazarene edged out the Stars in rebounds 44-38 and overall field goal percentage, 40.0 percent to 38.1 percent. The difference proved to be in the defense as OCU forced the Crimson Storm into 23 turnovers that resulted in 21 points.
The Stars look to repeat for a fourth consecutive SAC tournament championship as OCU plays the part of post-season host.
“By no means because it’s at our place is it a given, but the good thing is we haven’t lost at home in almost three years so we hope that that’s a factor,” Edmisson said. “We’ll try to win the tournament obviously, no doubt. We’re going to try to add another championship. That’s one of our goals of the season is to win three of them.”