After a first half that was nip and tuck throughout, featuring 14 lead changes and four ties, Arkansas Tech (9-10, 5-6 GAC) outplayed Great American Conference opponent Henderson State (8-9, 5-6 GAC) in the second half to snap a four-game losing streak with a 76-54 win on Saturday at Tucker Coliseum.
Scoring got underway when a Reddie jumper was matched with a Wonder Boy 3-pointer from senior guard Tyler Friedel (12 pts, nine rebounds). This pattern of back-and-forth scoring continued, either team’s lead never exceeding two points, until Prince of Henderson State had a layup fall on a fast break with 5:13 remaining.
An impressive offensive rebounding performance, scoring 18 second-chance points in the first half, helped extend the Reddie lead to as much as nine before the score settled at 38-33 heading into the break.
Senior guard Clarence Willard’s 3-point shot before the half started a 20-point unanswered run, during which senior guard Mike Balogun, who led his team with 14 points and nine rebounds, knocked down three 3-pointers.
Henderson State cut the lead down to 13 on a Perkins layup with 13:48 left, but this is as close as the visiting team would make the game.
Three-pointers from both Balogun and Little, as well as hitting 15-20 free throws in the second half, cinched up a comfortable Tech lead down the stretch.
The Wonder Boys outshot the Reddies across the board, making 45.3 percent of its field goals, 46.4 percent from behind the arc, 71.4 percent at the free throw line. Bench points provided a huge boost,
Tech players outscoring Henderson 29-15 off the bench.
Three Tech players, Friedel, Balogun and Little (11 pts), scored double-digit points in the win. Henderson State beat Tech in early December 69-63 in Arkadelphia.
Tech will have three road games in a row next, starting with facing off against Southern Arkansas (12-5, 8-3 GAC) in Magnolia on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Despite nine lead changes within the first half alone, the Harding Bisons (9-8, 7-4 GAC) pulled away from the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys (9-10, 5-6 GAC) late to pull off an 89-80 at Rhodes Field House on Jan. 22.
Four Tech players hit double digits, senior guard Tyler Friedel leading the way with 24 points all by way of 3-pointers and 12 rebounds, but this wasn’t enough to hang with Harding’s triple-threat attack of
Mcnair (23 pts), Gibson (22 pts) and Kavas (20 pts).
The Wonder Boys reached their biggest lead of the nightonly three minutes into the game, after an alley-oop from senior guard Mike Balogun (12 pts) to senior center Gary Gaskins and a three-point shot from Balogun put Tech ahead 8-2.
After some back and forth play, the Bisons regained the lead and went up 20-15 on a dunk from junior forward Antoine Burrell. Back-to-back threes from junior guard D.J. Jethroe (13 pts) and Balogun quickly reclaimed the Wonder Boy lead 21-20 with 9:19 left in the opening half.
From this point the first half saw four more ties, but the Bisons surged and broke another tie at the 1:07 mark, scoring six points unanswered to take a 42-36 lead at half.
The Bisons immediately got to work in the second half as junior guard Blake Mcnair sank two threes and junior forward Andraz Kavas had a layup fall to extend the home team’s lead to 11 not yet two minutes after the break.
But three 3-pointers from Friedel, one each from senior guard Clarence Willard (9 pts) and Jethroe and a Willard layup with 12:01 left edged the Wonder Boys ahead 58-57 to give them their first lead of the half.
Harding battled back with some skillful 3-point shooting of its own as Mcnair drained back-to-back shots from behind the arc, as well as Kavas and Gibson hitting the mark from long distance to contribute too, which would help to stretch the Bisons lead to 80-67 with 3:43.
A pair of free throws from Murphy and a 3-pointer from both Friedel and junior forward Nick Wayman cut the Bisons lead to five with only 1:15 remaining.
But upon being forced to foul, two sets of made free throws from Mcnair and Francis clinched the win for Harding.
The Wonder Boys and the Bisons matched one another in 3-pointers made (15) and points in the paint (26), but Tech grabbed 38 rebounds compared to Harding’s 30, as well as scoring more bench points 24-13.