SHAWNEE---Connors State Cowboys exploded midway the first half to take a commanding lead and never look back to rout Western State 82-50 in the quarterfinal round of the NJCAA Region II Tournament at the Noble Complex on the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University.
"I thought we did a really good job of holding them to 22 points at the half," said Coach Bill Muse. "Then (Jordan) Graham was the one that ignited us in the first half. He hit a couple of threes and finished with 13 points in the half. He played well the entire game."
Cowboys will take a 25-4 record into the semifinal round Friday against Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa (20-11) who advanced after defeating Northern Oklahoma- Enid 75-54. The two teams will collide for the third time this season. Tip-off is 3 p.m. Western ends the year at 10-20.
Connors and NOC-Tonkawa split during the regular season with each team winning on the others' home floor. The Cowboys won at Tonkawa 68-62 then lost at Melvin Self Field House in overtime 87-80.
"They (Tonkawa) are really talented and we are going to have to play really well," said Muse.
Cowboys had five players score in double figures against Western led by Graham, who came off the bench to score 17 points. He was followed by Terrance Jones' 16, with Isiah Jones finishing with a double-double, 13 points and 15 rebounds. Connors out rebounded the Pioneers 44-31.
"We got into foul trouble early and Putnam didn't play well. But we had a lot of positives in this game. (Callen) Haydon control the game for us and (Isiah) Jones did a good job of rebounding
"It's good to get this first game behind us. It's always one of the toughest games to play in the tournament," said Muse.
Cowboys held a comfortable 40-22 lead at the half and stretched its margin to 33 points, 79-46 with 1:32 remaining in the one-sided game.
The Pioneers came out in the second half scoring five unanswered points to cut the Cowboys lead to 13 points, 40-27 with 17:15 left on the clock. That was the closest the Pioneers would come as Connors outscored Western 20-6 over the next five minutes for a 62-32 advantage.
After a slow offensive start to open the game, the Cowboys exploded for 20 points in the final 8:17 of the first half. Connors went on a 20-8 run to capture a 40-22 lead at the half.
Connors shot 40.5 percent from the field, connecting on 15-of-37 from the field, 5-of-17 from behind the arc. Defensively it was a typical CSC as they held the Pioneers to 29 percent from the field (8-of-27) and 1-of-8 on 3-point attempts.
Cowboys trailed the Pioneers 12-11 at the 12:01 mark of the first half, but back-to-back 3-point baskets by Graham and Haydon put the Cowboys on top for good, 17-12 with 10:51 remaining.
Western added a free throw and bucket by Damien Sears and Obiajulum Okafor to slice the Connors lead to a point 17-16 with 9:18 on the clock.
However, that's when the Cowboys scored 12 unanswered points to take a 31-16 advantage.
Graham came off the bench to lead the first half assault with 13 points as he drained 5-of-8 shots from the field including 3-of-4 from behind the arc.
Terrance Jones followed with eight points and had five rebounds. But it was Isiah Jones who was clearing the boards for the Cowboys as he pulled down 10 rebounds, while scoring nine points.
Western's scoring was led by Dylan O'Hearn with 18 points with teammate Damien Sears adding 16 in the loss.
CONNORS STATE 82, WESTERN STATE 50
Connors State 40 42--82
Western State 22 28--50
Connors State (25-5)—Graham 17, T. Jones 16, I Jones 13, Haydon 11, Putnam 10, Sidberry 6, Riggs 6, Lowe 3.
Western State (10-20)—O'Hearn 18, Sears 16, Givins7, Okfar 5, Dumas 2, Giddens 2.