To control their own destiny for the No. 1 seed, Coach Roderick Stubbs and the Eagles needed a win over Southern Crescent Tech and with that 89-87 win over the Eagles are 13-12 (3-1, Region) and have the chance to win a region championship.
“It’s very important that we want to be the No. 1 seed in the tournament, so we’re two more wins from being the regular season champs so whenever you can win a championship, that’s important,” Stubbs said.
Marquavious Strozier aggravated a right foot injury early in the game, but he would return to post seven points and six assists. The speed of the Tigers’ guards was a lot to handle early, but the Eagles offense stayed within reach.
Oxford took its first lead of the game (11-10) – a lead that they wouldn’t get back until the second half – with a jumper by Mark Walden under the 16-minute mark.
The Eagles don't have a lot of capable shooters and it showed against the Tigers, as they packed the paint and played exceptional interior defense midway through the first, forcing a ton of Eagle turnovers for easy points.
A full-court trap defense by Southern Crescent allowed them to make a 14-0 run after the Eagles took their first lead. With 8:14 left in the first half, Coach Roderick Stubbs called a timeout, his team trailed 26-11 and just couldn't get its offense going against the trap defense.
Nothing worked and Stubbs had to call another timeout just two minutes later when the Eagles turned the ball over successively and the Tigers were in complete control up 34-15.
Suddenly, Oxford began to play under control against the Tigers’ press defense and were able to score in four-on-three situations. Wesley Anderson knocked down two threes to get the Eagles back within 10 points.
A steal and score from Walden cut what was once a 19-point lead to nine after the Tigers had gotten the lead back to 14.
Oxford started to play exceptional defense and a steal led to a Zach Breathwaite basket and the Eagles were down by six with 1:05 to play in the first half. The Tigers were able to get to the line with less than four seconds left in the half and converted two free throws to take a 52-45 lead into halftime.
“At one point we were down by 19 and we really hadn’t played well and to only be three possessions down at that time I told them if we just settle down and play solid basketball, don’t turn it over, we’ll be in good shape. They scored a lot of transition baskets, but not a lot in the half-court. Once we kept them off the glass, got better possessions, Mark Walden was tremendous tonight, so it was a good team victory.
Oxford didn't start the second half like they finished the first, but they eventually got it going on the backs of Breathwaite and Walden, who were crucial on both ends.
Silly turnovers cost Oxford the chance to tie after getting within two. Anderson, who finished the game with 23 points and four assists, missed some good looks for a chance to tie or take the lead.
The Eagles made another run and Ian Laurie sank two free throws to make it 71-70, Southern Crescent’s lead with just under seven minutes remaining. After two free throws by the Tigers, Laurie got free and nailed a triple to tie the game at 73.
Breathwaite gave the Eagles a 75-73 lead on a pass from Strozier after a good defensive possession saw the Tigers end with an airball.
The Tigers had two straight trips to the foul line and went 1-3, trailing Oxford 75-74. The Tigers called a timeout down 80-79 with 2:37 to play.
Oxford rode Anderson in the final minutes. He scored four points and had a big assist to keep Southern Crescent at bay. Anderson, however, fouled out with an offensive foul with nine seconds left, Eagles up 89-87.
The Eagles countered and Strozier drew an offensive foul with four seconds left, Oxford ball. Oxford inbounded the ball, but the Tigers quickly got to the ball and got tangled up with the ball-handler forcing a jump ball that went to the Tigers with 1.3 seconds left. Tiger timeout.
There wasn’t enough time and the Tigers couldn’t get a shot off and Oxford picked up the W.
After shooting 62.2 percent in the first half, the Eagles held the Tigers to just 30.6 percent shooting in the second half.
“The main thing was we took care of the basketball and we were getting good shots at the basket,” Stubbs said. “Wesley Anderson had some good looks and scores and Mark scored some tough baskets. The defensive end along with really making some clutch baskets helped us keep the lead throughout the second half.”