Taking the court Friday with gusto and aggressiveness, Oberlin appeared ready to shake off any residual rust from the holiday break.
Their late-stretch run against Lutheran West gave credence to their readiness — but Longhorns forward Ourtney Bryant had other ideas, draining a dagger three in the final minute of play to deliver a 61-60 win.
After falling behind by nine early, coach Kurt Russell’s boys closed the gap to 19-15 after the first quarter. Short bursts on both sides of the ball kept the Longhorns in the lead, but the Phoenix were right on their heels.
Trailing by four at the intermission and again after three quarters, it wasn’t until the final minutes that Oberlin grabbed the lead at 60-58 with 45 seconds left on a pair of Devan Yarber free-throws and a Justin Smith driving layup.
Lutheran West called time-out and ran a play to their leading scorer and sharpshooter: Bryant didn’t miss as a long-range three put his team up by one with 30 ticks on the clock. Oberlin had two final possessions, but neither resulted in points to change the result.
“We came out a little cold and they got a small lead,” Russell said. “Give the Longhorns credit for taking advantage of the opportunity. Eventually we caught them late in the second half, but they had one more clutch shot ready at the end, one we didn’t have an answer for this time around.”
“This was a really good learning game for us. I look forward to seeing them again later in the season. I’m confident the boys will be ready.”
The Phoenix offense was led by Smith, who tallied a 28, including three from three-point land. Yarber added 10, Giles Harrell III eight, Aaron and David Hopkins five each, and Trajen Chambers and Marcquis Moore each chipped in a pair.