Ichabods saddle up Mules, ride to impressive victory

The Ichabod basketball team had to wonder if they would ever face an evenly-matched opponent this season.

After opening with a loss at Kansas Washburn beat its next four opponents by 32, 32 again, 50 and 42, finishing the month of November without ever being tested by a Division II competitor.

Wisconsin even took notice, asking that Washburn give “their logo” back, and with the way the Bods were playing, their opponents might as well have been facing the Badgers.

However, No. 17 Central Oklahoma (5-2) finally gave Washburn (5-1) the opportunity to play a game that was not decided by halftime or in regulation, for that matter. It took five extra minutes to determine a winner, but the Bods came out on top in a 71-68 overtime thriller.

“It was an exciting game,” said head coach Bob Chipman. “I was proud of the way our guys battled and beat a very good team.”

James Williams, who scored a team-high 17 points, was largely responsible for Washburn pulling out the win in what was a close game from start to finish. Williams was the only Bod to score in the last five minutes of regulation, but his eight points in that span were enough to force overtime.

“Our guys did a great job of realizing James was hot,” said Chipman. “Defensively, he was huge for us, too.”

As a team, Washburn only made six of its 28 shots behind the line and Williams made just two of his six tries, but that pair of conversions could not have come at a better time.

His first three of the night went in with Washburn trailing by four, and 2:50 left in the second half. From then on, the game turned into a back and forth showdown between Williams and UCO guard Sam Belt, who matched Williams’ 17 points. Belt hit two free throws to give the Bronchos a three-point lead, and jumpers by Williams and Belt made it 57-54 UCO with 1:47 left.

Williams answered with three more points on Washburn’s next trip down the court, but not the way he planned. The junior guard missed a triple for the last time of the night, but he rebounded his own shot, hit a jumper and drew the foul for an and-one.

“James stealing those three points was huge at the end,” said Chipman.

The teams both missed threes in the last 20 seconds of regulation to enter overtime with the score 57-57, a fitting conclusion to a game that had 10 ties and six lead changes. Williams was the go-to guy again in overtime, but not before being set up for late game heroics by fellow guard Mario Scott.

Williams’ second three came with 1:09 remaining in overtime, off an assist from Scott, giving the Bods a 66-65 lead. Scott then stole the ball from Belt, was fouled after hitting a jumper and added the free throw to give Washburn a four-point advantage.

“I’ve been doing that kind of play since I was a kid,” said Scott. “[Belt] wasn’t actually my man. My man cut through and was a decoy, but I read the guy’s eyes with the ball. I looked at the clock and decided to take a gamble, and it worked.”

Eric Cazenave, who scored 16 points, brought UCO back within one after hitting the last of his four threes. Williams again bucked the Bronchos by hitting two free throws, and a missed 3-pointer by UCO secured the win for the Bods.

“Our defense was good enough, and we finished right with some big plays by a lot of guys,” said Chipman.

Chipman may have been pleased with the game’s end result but still saw room for improvement early in the game. The Bods trailed by as many as six in the first half, and missed their first 11 three point attempts before senior forward Kyle Snyder finally sunk one with 2:48 left until halftime.

“We did a lot of things wrong offensively,” said Chipman. “A lot of times we were standing around and there was a lot of hesitancy when the three balls weren’t falling.”

The clutch play of Washburn’s guards down the stretch and Snyder, who finished with an impressive 11 points and 11 rebounds, drew praise from Chipman. Williams snagged seven rebounds and five steals to go along with his 17 points, and guard Angel Santiago also reached double figures, scoring 11 points.

“We’ll take a win 2-0, as long as we’re ahead at the end of the game,” said Scott. “After having nine days off, it’s good to come back and get the win.”

The Bods have a home game Wednesday against Baker before getting a much-needed break, not on the court but from classes.

Mother Nature is the only thing that has kept Baker’s losing streak from reaching 10 games. The Wildcats (3-9) have played typical Baker basketball after winning their first three games and had their last game cancelled because of bad weather.

“We’re real excited about our start,” said Chipman. “We’re looking forward to going down to San Antonio. We’ll get through finals, get through another week of practice, then it’s time for break.”