Shawnee, OK- Connors State got lots of bang out of its big guns, scoring its first six players in double figures against a deeper Eastern bench and went on to an 87-75 opening-round win over Eastern on Thursday in the NJCAA Region II opening round at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee.
"We were balanced, there's no doubt about it," said Connors coach Bill Muse. "We got help from just about everybody. I thought our perimeter guys and our inside guys all did well and we started off strong."
The third-seeded Cowboys (26-5), who played just seven — Mason Alexander added six points — survived the 27-16 edge in bench points for the Mountaineers (20-10). Eastern also had a 26-11 edge in second-chance points. The Cowboys had a 50-42 edge scoring-wise in the paint and overall shot 31-of-60 for 51.7 percent to Eastern's 29-of-76 (38.2 percent).
Connors led 9-0 out of the gate, never trailed and was in front 41-26 at the half. The lead peaked at 21 in the second half.
Next up is second-seed Murray State in a 6 p.m. contest Friday. The Aggies (21-9) escaped an upset bid by Redlands, 83-81 to advance. The Cowboys lost at Tishomingo 89-77 in January and dropped an 81-80 decision at home in early February.
"We'll have our hands full," Muse said. "Our strength is our size. We've been bigger than everybody all year. The key for us is we'll have to control their perimeter."