West Texas A&M’s JoJo Murray became the school’s all-time steals leader Saturday during the Buffs 75-51 home win against Oklahoma Christian University. Murray has 157 steals for his career. [Trevor Fleeman/ Press Pass Sports]
Maybe it was the artic temperatures outside. Maybe it was the opponent Oklahoma Christian.
Maybe it just happened.
Whatever the reason for West Texas A&M taking its time to warmup Saturday, the No. 5-ranked Buffs certainly did heat up going on a 19-4 run in the second half sending pesky Oklahoma Christian packing 75-51 in Lone Star Conference action at the First United Bank Center.
The Buffs moved to 9-1 on the season and 7-1 in the LSC. Oklahoma Christian dropped to 4-10 overall, all those games in the LSC.
This game was thrown together in a hurry as the Buffs were scheduled to played Midwestern State in a home and home Thursday and Saturday, however, Midwestern State postponed because of COVID issues.
“Give Oklahoma Christian and coach (Kendre) Talley credit for wanting to play and wanting to beat us,” said West Texas A&M coach Tom Brown. “I’m very happy with the way we played today. You look down the roster and everybody played well.”
This one was still in doubt with 13:41 to play and West Texas clinging to a 43-41 lead when OC’s leading scorer Elijah Elliott scored on a Fastbreak bucket.
That’s when WT junior JoJo Murray ignited the Buffs with his quickness, long-rang shooting ability and overall skills.
Murray opened a game-clinching 19-4 WT run with a pair of free throws, dropped a 3-pointer over the OC zone, then added his third straight basket for a quick 7-0 run and a 50-41 lead.
OC never recovered as WT guard Qua Grant did his thing scoring a pair of quick baskets, the second after a steal, for a 54-44 lead with 10 minutes to play.
Murray scored a game-high 24 points and added a team-best five assists. The junior also had one steal as he passed David Chavlovich to become the program’s all-timee leader in steals with 157.
Grant scored 22 points, canning 4-of-9 3-pointers and collected a team-high eight rebounds.
Joining Murray and Grant in double figures for the was the ever-improving Jon’il Fugett with 14 points.
“JoJo did spark us there,” Brown said. “I thought he had pretty good shot slection in this one. Hey, and then our defense. Come on, 51 points, that’s pretty good.”
West Texas, know for it’s high-powered offense and 3-point shooting prowess, finished 8-of-29 from beyond the arc, not its best effort.
However, the 51 points easily was the Buffs best defensive effort of the year as the next most points allowed this crazy Covid-19 year was 70.
The Buffs played an up and down first half starting quickly building a 17-6 lead seven minutes into the finding shots in the lane against Oklahoma Christian.
However, the Buffs allowed OCU a couple of runs – 10-4 and 6-0 – before half finding the game knotted at 27 with 3:44 remaining in the half.
Thanks to the hustle of guard Jon’ll Fugett and Murray late the Buffs held a 34-27 at halftime benefitting from 7-0 run over that final 3:44.
Fugett, who was a spark throughout the opening 20 minutes scoring 10 points, made a sweet play in the air on an offensive tip-in giving the Buffs what would be the lead for good at 29-27 with 2:05 to play in the first half.
WT sophomore guard Zach Toussaint, recently inserted in the starting lineup, added a 3-pointer ending and 0-for-5 drought for a 32-27 lead with 1:33 remaining.
Murray closed out the scoring for the half.
BUFF STUFF: West Texas A&M may have the shortest starting lineup in all of college basketball. The starting lineup against Oklahoma Christian Saturday was 6-3 Parker Nelson, at 6-0 was Qua Grant, JoJo Murray and Jon’il Fugett, and Zach Toussaint at 5-11 … OC’s other double figure scorer joining Elliott was Anthony Johnson with 10 points. … West Texas is closing in on meeting the requirement for qualifying for the national tournament and the LSC tournament. Both tournaments require 11 games played. WT now has 10 overall games and eight LSC games. … The Buffs return to action Friday visiting Cameron.