CANTON -- The Missouri Valley College men's basketball team took a slim lead early in the overtime period and sank free throws to make it hold up Thursday to win its Heart of America Conference opener, 71-67, at Culver-Stockton.
Junior David Smith provided a spark for the Vikings during the extra frame, breaking the tie with a stick-back and then stealing a pass for a fast-break bucket for a five-point lead with 2:27 remaining.
Although Valley didn't make another field goal the rest of the game, it sank 10 of 12 attempts from the charity stripe to keep the Wildcats at bay.
Culver got three-pointers from sophomores Ronald Dukes and Jason Tucker and senior Peter Rodriguez to open the contest with an 11-7 lead. Lay-ups from junior Mike Conner and freshman Landers Riddle closed the margin to one point, with Smith's jumper putting the Vikings in front with 13:20 left in the first half.
Valley wouldn't fall behind again, junior James Pope getting inside twice, senior Daniel Cardosa scoring from the paint and Riddle converting a conventional three-point play to push the margin to 10 points with 5:50 to go in the opening period.
Freshman Jacob Schuster, a guard from Pilot Grove, struck from outside and Dukes got into the lane to whittle the 'Cats' deficit to five points. Rodriguez scored in the final minute of the half to cut the gap to two points at the break.
The Vikings' largest lead of the second half came on sophomore Jim Thomas' bomb to make it 39-30 with 14:29 remaining. The margin was still at nine points six minutes later, before Tucker nailed a three.
Smith drove to the hole to put Valley up by four points with 1:42 left in regulation, but four straight missed free throws gave the home team a chance. Rodriguez sank a pair from the stripe 13 seconds later and Schuster made two of three after being fouled on a three-point attempt with nine seconds to go.
Rodriguez finished with a game-high 22 points for Culver-Stockton (2-6, 0-1 HAAC).
The Vikings got 17 points and four steals from Riddle and, behind Pope's eight rebounds, controlled the boards, 46-29.
Valley (3-5, 1-0) will play league rival Baker during Saturday's home game.