Midwestern State's Michael Loyd poured in 19 of his game-high 21 points in the second half to lead the Mustangs to an 89-71 win over Science & Arts (Okla.) Monday night at D.L. Ligon Coliseum.
The Mustangs, who improved to 2-0 on the season, return to action this weekend at the Al Kaly Classic played on the campus of Colorado State-Pueblo.
MSU takes on New Mexico Highlands Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. before playing the host team Saturday night at 8 p.m.
USAO's quick start produced a 10-2 run highlighted by a Graham Faulker 3-pointer and driving dunk by Kyle Hunt to give the Drovers a 12-4 lead at the 15:11 mark of the first half.
But led by junior Anthony Harris' strong performance in the opening half, the Mustangs powered their way back with an 11-0 run over a 6 1/2-minute stretch midway through the half.
Harris, who tallied 11 points before intermission on 4-of-4 shooting, answered Javier Ramos' long distance trey, that gave USAO a 19-13 lead with 12:14 to play in the opening half, with a dunk then powered in another layup to knot the game at 19-19.
Redshirt freshman Matt Gallagher connected on a pair of free throws before David Terrell hit a leaner in the lane and Thomas Colbert hit one of two charity tosses to give the Mustangs a 24-19 edge with 5:56.
The Drovers stopped the bleeding on a pair of Brandon Cutler freebies with 5:05 to play end a scoring drought of 7 minutes, but USAO would trail the rest of the way.
The Mustangs slowly pulled away in the second half and led by as many 24 points when junior JaMichael River slammed down a fast break dunk for an 84-60 bulge with 3:49 to play.
Harris knocked down 7-of-14 shots to narrowly miss a double-double with 18 points and nine rebounds to go along with two blocked shots and two steals in 20 minutes.
Rivers completed a stellar all-around performance with 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists while Gallagher turned in his second straight double-figure effort with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Junior DeJuan Plummer dropped in 10 points in 15 minutes off of the bench.
Hunt paced USAO with 15 points and eight rebounds as the Drovers fell to 2-2 on the season.
Midwestern State received 11 first-place votes and will carry the school's highest-ever national ranking into the NCAA Division playoffs at No. 2 in the final regular season American Football Coaches' Association Poll released Monday morning.
Colorado State-Pueblo outdistanced the Mustangs by five first-place votes (16) and a 708-703 margin in points to make unbeaten Thunderwolves the first school from the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference to claim the No. 1 position since the AFCA national poll began in 2000.
Only four teams ranked No. 1 in the final AFCA regular season poll have gone on claim national championships since 2000.
Midwestern State closed out its first unbeaten regular season at 10-0 by claiming a 37-34 come-from-behind win at Northeastern State on Saturday.
The Mustangs received a first-round bye into the NCAA Division II playoffs and will face the winner of one of Saturday's first-round matchups between Missouri Western and Northwest Missouri next Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
Midwestern is one of 11 teams out of rugged Super Region Four to receive mention in the AFCA final regular-season poll, including No. 7 Pittsburg State (Kan.), No. 10 Northwest Missouri, No. 11 Abilene Christian (Texas), No. 13 Humboldt State (Calif.), No. 15 Washburn (Kan.), No. 16 Missouri Western and No. 23 Central Missouri.
West Texas A&M, Ouachita Baptist (Ark.) and East Central (Okla.) are receiving votes.
Midwestern State has received votes in 69 of the last 70 reporting periods dating back to the 2006 season.