Despite a 12-point deficit with the clock down to 5:59, an Arkansas Tech (13-13, 9-9) comeback topped off by Clarence Willard’s last second buzzer beater made the Wonder Boys 77-76 winners over Southeastern Oklahoma on Saturday at Bloomer Sullivan Arena.
Willard earned his triple-double — the program’s third in its history — with a 17-point, 13-rebound, and 10-assist performance. D.J. Jethroe was the biggest scorer on the night, dropping 24 points and snagging 10 rebounds to pull off the double-double. Tyler Friedel contributed 14 points and seven boards, while Mike Balogun added 10 in the Great American Conference victory.
Tech held a lead through the first part of the opening half, extending the gap to five (15-10) on Balogun’s second of three 3-pointers with 13:24 left. The Savage Storm took control for the first time with a 3-pointer at the 10:58 mark to go ahead 17-16, but the Wonder Boys would regain the lead twice more before a deep ball from Friedel with :39 left sent Tech into the locker room up 30-28.
A layup 29 seconds into the second half tied things up, but Tech otherwise maintained a lead through nearly the first seven minutes of play after the break. SEOSU regained ground with a 3-pointer that put them up 47-45, and the Wonder Boys immediately struck back with a three of their own to gain back a one point lead. Both teams then traded layups, but the Savage Storm would get the upper hand and go on an 11-point run.
Once the SEOSU lead was stretched to 12, Clarence took the game into his own hands and scored nine of the team’s final 12 points. Friedel drilled a three with 5 seconds remaining that pulled Tech within one point.
The Savage Storm hit a free throw with 3 seconds on the clock to go back up by two, but upon receiving the inbound, Clarence dribbled across the left side of half court and let fly the 35-foot winner right at the buzzer.
Tech was outshot from the field 50 percent-36.6 percent, but 3-pointers down the stretch proved clutch for the Wonder Boys as two of Friedel’s four 3-pointers came in the final 4:05.
Tech narrowly outrebounded SEOSU 41-40, but the home team had more to show statistically, scoring twice as many points in the paint (36-18). The Savage Storm’s bench play provided more support as well, chipping in 21 points while Tech’s bench only contributed 10.
The Wonder Boys lost to East Central (18-8, 12-6 GAC) on the road 78-54 on Feb. 19. They will return home to Tucker Coliseum Thursday at 7:30 to face Harding (12-12, 10-8 GAC).