Career Night for Hooker Guides Owls to Season-Opening Victory

Career Night for Hooker Guides Owls to Season-Opening Victory

KENNESAW, Ga. – After a slim one-point lead to end the first half, the Kennesaw State men's basketball team exploded for a huge second-half surge to down Oglethorpe 68-57 Wednesday night and start the 2018-19 campaign off on the right foot.

Three Owls finished the game in double-figures, led by red-shirt junior Tyler Hooker who recorded a career-high 25 points.

How it happened: After a 6-0 run gave KSU (1-0) an early 10-6 lead, Oglethorpe responded with back-to-back three-pointers by Justin Hughes to pull ahead 14-10 at the 9:59 mark. The Stormy Petrels pushed their lead to as high as 13 points, 26-13, following a 12-1 run capped off by yet another three-pointer from Hughes with 8:03 left in the first half.

Hooker finally broke the run with two free throws and a three-pointer to spark a 19-0 run for the Owls, capped off by a trey from freshman Ugo Obineke to make it 32-26 with less than two minutes to play. Obineke scored nine of his 17 points during KSU's run, giving the Owls the lead after a huge dunk that got the crowd of over 900 fans on their feet.

Oglethorpe closed out the half on a 5-0 run, all from the free throw line, to pull within one at the buzzer, 32-31.

After the Stormy Petrels took the lead to open the second half, KSU ran away with it, going on an 18-2 run to earn their largest lead of the game, 52-38. Hooker sparked the seven-minute run with back-to-back layups, recording 10 of the Owls 18 points.

Oglethorpe rallied to within seven, 60-53, behind three straight three-pointers, but KSU kept the Stormy Petrels at bay to win 68-57.

Notes: This is the first time the Owls have won their season-opener since the 2010-11 season … KSU's 45 rebounds is tied for 10th most all-time in a single match as the Owls out-rebounded Oglethorpe 45-24 … Bryson Lockley set a new career-high with nine rebounds while Isaac Mbuyamba tied his career-high with nine … Lockley also finished with a team-high five assists, a career-high mark, while logging eight points … Apart from his career-high 25 points, Tyler Hookeralso tied his career-high with five assists … Kosta Jankovic was the third Owl in double-figures with 12 points … freshman Antonio Spencer displayed another big presence under the rim with six rebounds and two blocks.

Quotes: Head Coach Al Skinner
On falling behind in the first half…
"We were getting good shots, we just didn't make them, and a lot of turnovers led to runouts for them and those are things that are going to happen to a young team. We've got to learn how to handle the ball better, meaning execute our offense better, recognize the situations and make sure that we don't turn the ball over that leads to runouts and scores. But at the end of the day if we would've made our shots we wouldn't have been in that position. The second half we made a few more shots, turned the ball over less and that's what allowed us to get the lead. This team has to learn how to play together, which we will, and it's an improvement from the scrimmage, from our exhibition, to this game. So we are going to continue to improve and I am happy that we are doing that."

On Tyler Hooker's scoring potential…
"He's got the ball in his hands a lot, a lot of decisions that he has to make, so he is always going to have the potential to score… He's an upperclassman, he likes to score, so that's going to be easy for him."

On KSU's rebounding performance…
"We rebounded the ball extremely well, but we didn't really convert as well as we should have. We had almost as many offensive rebounds as they did total rebounds, but we didn't convert. You have to be able to convert those second shot opportunities. Again, these are areas that we can improve on. It really shows the potential of the team, like I said I thought there was an improvement in the second half on our execution, our recognition. It's a building process, we are going to be better in January and February then we are now."

Up next: The Owls hit the road for one of their toughest tests of the season at No. 12 Kansas State Saturday at 8 p.m. EST.