The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets’ bid to end their four-game losing streak was denied by the Ozarks Eagles, who held on for a 79-76 victory at the Brownwood Coliseum Thursday.
With two seconds left in regulation, the Yellow Jackets (0-5, 0-3) attempted a tying three-pointer from the left corner, but John Bryant’s shot floated wide as time expired.
Howard Payne trailed by five points, 77-72, with 1:41 remaining, but moved back to within striking distance in the final 100 seconds.
Brandon Irwin, who led the Yellow Jackets with 25 points, drained a jumper at the 1:32 mark to trim the deficit to 77-74. Keith Perry, who chipped in 13 points, sank a pair of free throws with 44 seconds left to close the gap to 77-76.
Blake Mitchem, who finished with 19 points for Ozarks (4-3, 4-0), scored in the paint with seven seconds left to force the Yellow Jackets to fire up a three-pointer at the end, which did not connect.
The Yellow Jackets shot 46 percent (28-of-61) from the floor compared to Ozarks’ 43 percent (26-of-60), but the Eagles converted 21-of-25 free throws to HPU’s 13-of-19 effort. The Jackets also came up on the short end of the rebounding battle, 38-30.
The Yellow Jackets led by as many as seven points in the first half, 25-18, following a three-pointer by Bryant — who contributed 17 points —with 9:29 left in the first half.
Leading 29-23 with 6:25 left in the opening half, HPU was outscored 19-7 over the next 4:18 as the Eagles established a six-point cushion of 42-36 with 2:07 left in the half.
Ozarks went on to build a 46-41 halftime lead, which grew to 11 points, 53-42, with 9:01 remaining.
HPU will face No. 14 UT-Dallas (6-1, 3-0) for the second time this season at 3 p.m. Saturday. The Jackets lost, 73-60, on Nov. 20.