In its regional, Central Oklahoma found a way to overcome a pair of precarious situations.
The Bronchos, the team with the unique nickname, are making their second trip to the Division II Elite Eight. They will face Augusta State at noon Wednesday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass.
Central Oklahoma's trip to the Elite Eight is a remarkable one. Half of the Bronchos overcame a bout of food poisoning to defeat Fort Hays State by one in the South Central Regional opener.
"Luckily, we got through that first game," Central Oklahoma coach Terry Evans said. "We were fortunate to overcome some things."
The Bronchos (28-5), a No. 3 seed, advanced to knock off No. 2 seed Northwest Missouri State in the semifinals. Central Oklahoma trailed 21-7 early in the game.
Then, down 11 with four minutes remaining, the Bronchos rallied to shock No. 1 seed Tarleton State on its home floor, 77-76, in the Regional final.
"We've got a group of guys that don't want to lose," Evans said. "They felt like they weren't supposed to lose to Tarleton."
In his sixth season, Evans said his team is probably the worst one he's had talent-wise. The Bronchos make up for that with good chemistry and basketball IQ.
"They're not the most athletic bunch but they find a way to turn it up," Evans said. "We feel like we can score on anybody."
Central Oklahoma, which is riding a nine-game winning streak, averages 82.4 points a game. The Bronchos have scored 100 or more points four times this season, though they haven't hit the 80-point mark in their past five games.
Central Oklahoma is led by senior guard/forward Sam Belt, a first-team, all-region selection. Belt, an inside-out shooter, averages 19 points and 7.7 rebounds a game.
Eric Cazenave scores 10.7 points a contest. Lance Harper has a 10.5 scoring average and is followed by Michael Sosanya (10.2). Nine players have made 10 or more 3-pointers.
Central Oklahoma has no players to match up with Augusta State center Garret Siler (6-foot-11, 304 pounds), but Evans is not worried. Three times this season, the Bronchos went up against Tarleton State's Terrence Gamble (6-11, 255).
"He's actually better than Siler based on what I've seen on tape," Evans said. "But I think Siler will pose some problems. But we do run the floor and he'll have to run the floor with us."
Evans said Central Oklahoma played in one of the tougher regions in the nation with nine teams ranked in the top 20 at one point. Evans said Augusta State likely would've been one of the top five teams in the South Central region.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT: Division II Elite Eight, Augusta State (25-6) vs. Central Oklahoma (28-5)
WHEN: Noon, Wednesday
WHERE: MassMutual Center, Springfield, Mass.
ONLINE: Go to www.augustachronicle.com for live game updates
COMING THIS WEEK
TUESDAY: Garret Siler and his effect in the Elite Eight
WEDNESDAY: Capsules on all eight teams left in the tournament