Clarksville, Ark.-The Eagles gained a 99-92 victory over UT-Tyler in what was their highest scoring output of the season and moved themselves into sole possession of second place in the American Southwest Conference East Division.
The Eagles (8-6, 6-5) used a solid shooting night and a strong rebounding effort in route to an important league victory over UT-Tyler (5-8, 5-5). "I thought we played the last six or seven minutes very well," said U of O head coach Matt O’Connor. "UT-Tyler hit some shots in the second half, but we made it tougher down the stretch and I thought our rebounding effort was the big difference. Josh Joyner played a very strong all-around game. He made plays in transition and hit open jumpers. Defensively, we asked him to defend the point guard in the first half and their power forward in the second half. He proved himself well." Ozarks held a slight 47-45 halftime advantage behind a strong performance by Joyner. Joyner, who opened the game with a three-pointer, shot 5-of-8 (62%) from the floor and scored 14 first half points to give the Eagles their lead. Joyner did more damage in the second half, scoring another 14 points and finished the contest with a team-high 28 points on 9-of-13 (69%) shooting from the floor. Joyner teamed with Brent Johnson in the second half to answer all of UT-Tyler’s scoring spurts. With the Patriots holding a 70-68 lead with 10:01 remaining in the game, Johnson scored 16 points in the span of four minutes to give the lead back to Ozarks. Johnson’s last bucket of his scoring barrage came on a lay-up with 6:10 remaining and pushed the Eagles lead to 81-76. Johnson ended the contest with 19 points. Habeeb Kareem added 14 points and Chris Clark added 10 points. Kareem and Clark each had a team-best 6 rebounds. "We played Howard Payne and Sul Ross so well before the Christmas break and then we lost something over the break," said O’Connor. "Our timing was off, but I think we are playing much better now and we will continue to settle in to begin the second half of the season. We are getting contributions from a lot of different people on different nights. I think it’s a real promising second half of the season." "The conference standings are tight at this point," said O’Connor. "Things can change in a real hurry in this league. Our upcoming games at LeTourneau and East Texas Baptist will be tough. LeTourneau is leading the conference in three-pointers made and East Texas Baptist has the Isom brothers who are athletic and versatile." Ozarks will travel to Longview, Texas, to face LeTourneau University on January 20 and Marshall, Texas, to face East Texas Baptist University on January 22.