Taylor Smaller came up big for the Savage Storm in a season-opening win Saturday on the Bloomer Sullivan Arena basketball court.
Smaller hit a three-pointer with 22 seconds left to extend Southeastern’s lead over University of Science and Arts (Oklahoma) to five points. The Storm (1-0) held on for a 64-56 win.
The Drovers led most of the first half before a late Storm surge gave SE a 37-36 halftime lead. The home team outscored USAO 27-20 in the second half to pull out the win.
A big part of the puzzle was a 36-28 Storm advantage in rebounding. Urald King (a double-double with 16 points and 10 boards) and Darius Harris (10 boards and two points) were key in Coach Kelly Green’s three-post offense.
“Our biggest problem right now is, we don’t have any offensive flow,” Green said. “It’s hard to play three post players. We’re still figuring out who we are. But we rebounded the ball well and held a very good three-point shooting team to just seven of them.”
The Drovers were 7-for-22 from behind the arc and shot a dismal 33 percent from the field and 46.7 percent (7-15) from the free throw line.
Southeastern, on the other hand, shot 60 percent overall (22-37) and went 74 percent (17-23) from the charity stripe.
Smaller, the junior transfer from Minnesota, led the way in his first game as a Savage Storm with 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Senior Urald King made a big return to the court with his double-double after a season-ending injury one year ago.
“It was just good to be back on the court after red-shirting last year,” King said. “This game came down to rebounding. We let them get seven offensive rebounds in the first half and we made it clear at halftime that we had to get rebounds.”
The Savage Storm had five blocks, three of them from King. But it was Trevor Jackson’s timely block with under two minutes left which stopped a 5-0 run by the Drovers (0-4).
The Storm also collected 23 turnovers to just 12 for USAO. The Drovers dished out 15 assists to 11 for the Storm.
Anton Cook scored 13 points for SE, Jackson had eight, Daichi Taniguchi scored five, Randy Peters had three and Darius Harris scored two. Tyler Reynolds led USAO with 13 points.
The only Oklahomans on either team had little impact in the game. Southeastern sophomore Quinton Threadgill of Haworth had two assists in 13 scoreless minutes, while the Drovers’ Chris Ryan of Dickson did not play.
The Savage Storm will visit Missouri S&T College in a road game on Wednesday. Their next home appearance is the Great American Conference opener against Henderson State Univ. on Nov. 21.