GEORGETOWN - The Southwestern University men's basketball team opened up their 2017-18 season with a stiff test, taking on the two-time defending ASC Champion Hardin-Simmons Cowboys on Thursday evening at the Robertson Center.
Senior Ryan Ogden notched a double-double with 29 points and 10 rebounds while sophomore Ryan Wheeler scored a career-high 21 points on perfect shooting as the Pirates held off the Cowboys late in the contest for an 83-77 win.
"The 'Ryan's' were outstanding tonight," said Head Coach Janson Hightower. "I was telling people Ryan Wheeler would be the most improved player in our conference, and he showed that tonight. (Ryan) Ogden was the most composed player on the floor and he did what great seniors do; made big plays on both ends. I'm very happy with how he's developed in his four years at Southwestern."
The Pirates shot 38% from the field on 21 of 56 shooting while only shooting 26% from deep. However, the Southwestern defense shined, holding Hardin-Simmons to 33% shooting on 21 of 63 from the field and 7 of 32 from three.
Southwestern got to the line 46 times and shot an impressive 76% from the charity stripe. The Pirates dominated the boards, outrebounding the Cowboys 50-35, but had 29 turnovers in the win to HSU's 20.
"I'm proud that we showed growth in our decision making and we are rebounding the ball extremely well right now, winning tonight's boards by 15," said Hightower. "When we start making shots we will be really dangerous."
After a back-and-forth exchange that saw the Cowboys take a 15-13 lead at the 12 minute mark, Southwestern went on a 10-0 run in the next four minutes to take a 23-15 lead thanks a three from Wheelers and jumpers from sophomores Joel Martinez, Mike May, and Kyle Howard.
Hardin-Simmons roared back with an 8-0 run of their own to tie the game at 23 a piece, but Southwestern began to get to the free throw line and slowly built their lead back out to eight with five minutes remaining in the half.
The Cowboys got to the free throw line on the other end to cut into the deficit, but the Pirates held on to a three point lead going into half, 41-38.
Hardin-Simmons tied the game at 41 before a 10-0 run, thanks to five points by Ogden in the stretch, gave Southwestern their largest lead of the game at 10. The Cowboys cut it back down to 51-45 before the Pirates went on a mini 12-6 run to push the lead back to double digits at 63-31.
With under four minutes to play, Southwestern took their largest lead of the contest at 69-55 after a pair of free throws from Ogden. Hardin-Simmons slowed the game down and was able to cut the deficit all the way down to four with two minutes remaining, but the Pirates remained composed, used solid defense, and closed the game out for the 83-77 win.
"We kept our composure enough to win against a tough and well-coached opponent," said Hightower. "Credit Hardin Simmons for continuing to fight until the buzzer."
Ogden was 8 of 15 from the field including a pair of 3s while going 11 of 13 from the charity stripe. He also had three assists and two blocks. Wheeler came off the bench and was 6 of 6 from the field including three 3s while also going 6 of 6 from the free throw line. He added four assists as well.
May scored nine points while Howard had eight. Sophomore Luke Hicks came away with three steals while May pulled down eight rebounds.
Joe Hoeup led Hardin-Simmons with 27 points off the bench while Salomon Smith and Caleb Spoon each scored 11 points to pace the Cowboys.
"Not always a pretty game but we will take a win any way we can get it," said Hightower.
Southwestern starts the season at 1-0 and have won three straight openers including a 3-1 record in opening games under Hightower. The Pirates will stay at the Robertson Center on Saturday as they welcome in Texas-Tyler for a 3 PM tip-off.