Clarksville, Ark.-Blake Mitchem put on another dominating performance, scoring 26 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, to give Ozarks their fourth straight American Southwest Conference win, 76-67, over Sul Ross State Saturday in Alpine, Texas.
Ozarks improves to 5-3 overall and remains undefeated in conference play with a 4-0 record.
The Eagles started the game with a 17-4 run and later held a 26-11 lead at the 12:02 mark behind Mitchem’s back-to-back jumpers. Mitchem’s second basket gave Ozarks its biggest lead of the game, but Sul Ross State (1-6, 1-3 ASC) made a 13-0 run to cut the deficit to 26-24 with 7:57 left in the half. The Eagles would end the half with a narrow 36-33 advantage.
Sul Ross State tied the game, 45-45, within the first five minutes of the second half. However, each time the Lobos got within striking distance, the Eagles would answer with a score. After the Lobos tied it again, Ozarks built some momentum and had a 58-49 lead on a Shawn Curtis three-pointer with 9:43 left. The Lobos wouldn’t go away though as it closed the gap to 64-63 with 3:13 remaining. Mitchem answered with a bucket on Ozarks’ next possession and then hit a pair of free throws to give the Eagles some breathing room. Sul Ross fought back to make it a 68-65, but Jerard McGinty hit a clutch three-pointer with 1:29 left to secure the game.
Curtis and Josh Odom came off the bench to score 13 points apiece.
“I am real happy with our effort since it is so difficult to win on the road in this conference,” said first-year head coach Doug Boxell. “I told our kids that we have to really be mentally tough and really concentrate playing on the road because the competition is so close. If you are not ready to play, you will get beat. Every win we get takes us closer to our goal of making the conference tournament. But we have to continue to improve on the areas that we are weak in.”
Ozarks is among the top shooting teams in the conference, ranking in the top-4 in field goal percentage (50.2%), three-point percentage (42.5%) and free throw percentage (70.6%).
“We have some really good shooters on the team and we’ve had some kids hit some really big shots,” said Boxell. “To be in the tournament, we have to be one of the best defensive teams and best rebounding teams in the conference.”
“Blake has been outstanding,” said Boxell. “Our opponents have really had to concentrate on him and and that has opened up some outside shots. Andre’s (Williams) leadership, Colby’s (Woolverton) fire and Jerard’s physical presence have helped the team. And Josh has been a tremendous asset. He can really break people down off the dribble. The chemistry is good and the kids are having a great time right now.”
Ozarks will host Rust College December 8.