MIAMI — Playing one of the most focused and intense basketball games in recent history, the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Golden Norsemen upset Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa, 63-54, Monday, Feb. 5, in the NEO Field House.
With the win, the Golden Norse snapped a three-game losing skid and knocked the NOC-Tonkawa Mavericks (19-5) out of a tie for first place in the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference with No. 15 Connors State (21-2).
Both teams were 8-1 atop the conference before the Mavericks lost.
NEO had lost to Connors, 73-59 Feb. 1 in Warner after the Norse defeated the Cowboys, 77-71, on Nov. 28, in Miami.
"We played with this same intensity at Connors," Golden Norse head coach Dustin Grover said. "The difference was that we made three or four mistakes that really cost us at critical times.
"At Connors we had the lead going down the stretch and they flipped it on us," Grover said. "Against Northern, we reversed things and we grabbed the lead down the stretch and flipped it on them.
"Both games I thought we were really, really ready to play," Grover said. "We made the plays in this game that we didn't the other night."
NEO carried a 4-4 record in the conference and a 14-8 season mark into a Thursday, Feb. 8 game at Seminole State College.
The Trojans are 6-4 in the league and 17-6 overall.
"Our half-court offense against Tonkawa wasn't very good," Grover said. "We were lucky to get them into a foul count late because we were not hitting shots.
"We've just been trying to change our mindset," Grover said. "It's been a losing mindset, so it was good to come and play well."
During the first half, both teams struggled to find an offensive identity.
A layup jam by freshman guard Ravel Moody at the 18:10 mark seemed to jump-start NEO's sluggish start.
The Mavericks received three 3-pointers from guard Chris Hamal, along with a trey by guard Trevion Lamar, to build a 15-14 lead at 6:22 of the first half.
NEO responded with 3-pointers by guards Jeremiah Morris, Kyle Lukasiewicz and Tyjuan Johnson and a layup by David Thornton to forge a 25-25 tie at intermission.
Consecutive field goals by Amir Allen, Lamar and Keiodre Perry, along with a 3-pointer by Khobe Amita-Johnson, gave Northern-Tonkawa a 34-27 lead with 11:21 left in the game.
Lukasiewicz canned a contested 3-pointer at the top of the key and Dylan Van Eyck hit one deep in the corner as NEO went on a 14-6 run to produce a 41-40 lead with 7:57 remaining on the clock.
Down the stretch, Tyjuan Johnson connected on 9 of 12 from the free throw line to seal NEO's come-from-behind victory.
"They were disappointed to get down like we did in the second half," Grover said. "But, they hung in there and fought back.
"We got some contributions from some guys that haven't seen a lot of minutes," Grover said. "Thais Montgomery came in an gave us some quality defensive moments and solidified what we did.
"Tyjuan stepped up and hit his free throws when we had to have them," Grover said. "He also hit a big 3 when we needed it and I'm pleased to see two guys that have been in our program the last two years make major contributions."
Tyjuan Johnson led all scorers with 17 points while Lukasiewicz added 11, Van Eyck 10, Thornton and Moody and Valentin Van Putten six each, Morris five and Montgomery two.
Hamil scored 12 points to lead the Mavericks while Austin-Johnson contributed 11 and Allen finished with 10.