OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma City University prevailed over defending national champion Mid-America Christian 100-90 on Thursday night at Abe Lemons Arena in a battle of top 10-ranked teams in NAIA Division I men's basketball.
Syrus McDonald keyed fifth-ranked OCU with a season-best 33 points. The Stars (12-1, 3-0 Sooner Athletic Conference) reached 100 points for the fourth time this season.
Tyler Chaisson spurred Mid-America Christian with 15 points and eight rebounds. Tenth-ranked Mid-America Christian fell to 10-4, 2-1 in the SAC.
"That was a war right there," OCU coach Vinay Patel said. "We have not achieved the intensity level and physical play that I've been trying to get this team to. I thought we took a huge step in that today. We saw guys diving on the floor and making huge plays."
McDonald, a senior from Flint, Mich., added five rebounds, four assists and two steals while knocking down 13 of 14 free-throw shots.
"I don't know if I would have necessarily seen as many as he had, but we knew he was getting ready to have some good games," Patel said of McDonald's performance. "I think what helped him a little bit was Jonathan Reed was out for four games. Syrus had to play 30 minutes a game. I think that knocked some rust off him. If you saw this kid play in junior college, this would be a normal night for him. He did stuff like this all the time in junior college before he went to the four-year level. I'm not shocked to see it, but I'm glad to finally see it."
Xavier Smith supplied Oklahoma City with 22 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots. Smith, a senior from Richardson, Texas, sank 8 of 9 shots from the field.
OCU's Jonathan Reed produced career highs with 20 points, 13 free throws made and 15 free-throw attempts. Reed, a junior from Powder Springs, Ga., chipped in four assists and four steals. The Stars downed 33 of 39 free-throw tries – 24 of 26 in the second half.
The contest included 17 lead changes, but OCU stayed in front for the final 16:18 of the game. Smith's putback dunk gave the Stars the lead 54-53 during a game-turning 16-1 OCU onslaught. McDonald nailed a jumper in the lane to cap the run that put OCU on top 66-54 with 13:20 to go.
Olajuwon Garner sank a trey to cut OCU's advantage to 76-71 midway through the second period. Smith held off Mid-America by hitting a jumper and a 3-pointer. The Stars' lead hit its largest at 91-77 on McDonald's lay-in with 5:31 showing.
Chris Bates gave Mid-America a tip-in that whittled the OCU edge to 95-90 with 47 seconds left. Reed responded with five points in the final 46 seconds as Mid-America Christian missed three 3-point attempts.
The Stars meet Southwestern Assemblies of God (Texas) at 5 p.m. Saturday in Waxahachie, Texas.