Steve O’Neill became the 27th member of Morningside’s 1000-point club in Wednesday’s win at city rival Briar Cliff.
Steve O’Neill, a 6-0 senior guard from Council Bluffs, Iowa, became the 27th men’s basketball player in Morningside College history to reach the 1000-point career milestone during Wednesday’s 77-74 GPAC men’s basketball victory at city rival Briar Cliff University.
O’Neill finished with a game-high 24 points to raise his career total to 1016 points.
O’Neill scored 17 of his points in the second half, including his team’s final seven tallies of the game, to help keep the seventh-ranked Mustangs’ GPAC title hopes alive. Morningside won its 11th game in a row to climb to 24-3 on the season, including a 16-3 mark in the GPAC. Morningside can share the league crown with fifth-ranked Dakota Wesleyan, which routed Mount Marty 81-47 on Wednesday to finish its league slate at 17-3, with a win against Concordia in Saturday’s regular season finale at 4 p.m. in the Rosen Verdoorn Sports Center.
Morningside shot 50.8 percent for the game and had four players score in double figures. Aside from O’Neill, the Mustangs received 17 points from Kyle Nikkel and 14 each from Andrew Christen and Tanner Miller. The four players accounted for all but eight of the Mustangs’ points.
Nikkel added a game-high 11 rebounds to finish with a double-double and pace the Mustangs to a 38-32 advantage on the boards. O’Neill added seven rebounds to finish just one off his career high.
Austin Lefler scored 19 points for Briar Cliff, ranked 23rd in the latest NAIA Division II poll, and Ricky Williams chipped in with 14 points off the bench.
Morningside came out strong and raced to an early 12-3 advantage to force the Chargers into an early timeout with 15:11 left in the opening half.
The Chargers came back behind the long range shooting of Lefler, who made four 3-point field goals and scored 14 points in the opening half. Briar Cliff closed within one point when a 3-pointer by Austin Pohlen made it 28-27 with 3:29 left and the Chargers pulled within one two more times before they went ahead 33-32 on a basket by Ricky Williams with 1:24 left in the half.
Briar Cliff took a three-point lead, 35-32, on a jumper in the lane by Zach Otting with 15 seconds left before Nikkel scored a conventional 3-point play off an offensive rebound with 0.3 seconds left to send the game into the intermission tied at 35-35.
The Chargers went on a 10-4 run to start the second half to go ahead 45-39 before the Mustangs battled back to tie the score at 45-45 on a layup by O’Neill with 16:50 left.
Briar Cliff used 3-pointers from Williams and Shane Graves to open an eight-point lead, 53-45, with 15:17 left before Miller made a pair of 3-pointers and accounted for eight points during an 11-2 Mustang scoring run that saw the guests regain the lead at 56-55 on a 3-pointer by O’Neill with 13:08 left.
The Chargers answered with six straight points to go up 61-56 with 10:41 left, but the Mustangs battled back to regain the lead at 67-66 on a 3-pointer by O’Neill with 5:21 left.
Briar Cliff tied the score at 67-67 on a free throw by Shane Graves with 4:54 left. Morningside answered when Christen drained a 3-pointer from the baseline with 3:33 left to go back in front 70-67. The Mustangs then made it 72-67 when O’Neill hit from just inside the 3-point arc with 2:44 left.
Briar Cliff made it a one-point game, 75-74, when Shane Graves struck from 3-point distance with 43 seconds left. O’Neill then provided the clinching bucket with a fall away 12-foot jumper with 9.2 seconds left and the shot clock just about to expire.