The Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys (8-9, 4-5 GAC) surmounted a 10-point halftime deficit only to fall to the East Central Tigers (12-5, 6-3 GAC) on a last second shot that would lift the Great American Conference opponent to a 70-68 win on Saturday at Tucker Coliseum.
Tech outplayed ECU in nearly every aspect of the game, grabbing more rebounds and shooting better from the field (51.1 percent), behind the arc (36.4 percent) and at the free throw line (75 percent).
Junior forward Nick Wayman posted a 10-point performance, as well as getting 8 rebounds, a team high that allowed Tech to win the battle on the boards 34-30.
But it was Tech’s 20 turnovers compared to ECU’s 11 that proved to be to the home team’s detriment.
The Wonder Boys came out strong and wasted no time cutting into the lead after the break, as senior center Gary Gaskins led off second-half scoring with a slam dunk.
Fifteen of senior guard Mike Balogun’s 23 points came in the second half. He kept Tech close with the deep ball, going 4/6 from the 3-point line after the break and helping to reduce the Tiger lead to 47-46 after draining a three with 11:24 left.
On the next Tech touch, a fast break dunk from junior guard Branden Williams would give the Wonder Boys their first lead since being up 7-6 in the first half. Eight of Williams 10 points came in the final 11 minutes.
Tech would extend the lead to as much as six in the closing minutes of the game after a Balogun 3-point play on a layup and two free throws from senior guard Clarence Willard, who had 12 points, six rebounds and eight assists on the night coming off the bench.
But with 1:17 remaining, ECU’s junior guard Stirling Thomas pulled up with a jumper that brought the Tigers to within three. On his next touch, Thomas sank a 3-pointer that tied the game with 42 seconds left.
Senior guard Jay Murphy gave Tech the lead with 7 seconds left on a made free throw before the Tiger’s junior guard Deron Hill made a field goal with 2 seconds on the clock, taking over 69-68.
Tech didn’t connect on the ensuing inbound play, turning the ball over and being forced to send Hill to the line, who made the first shot and missed the second. The clock expired without Tech being able to get off a full-court shot attempt.
The Wonder Boys will try to snap a three-game losing streak as they face the Harding Bison (7-8, 5-4 GAC) on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Searcy.