From Harding University
The Harding men's basketball team almost did it again.
Fourteenth-ranked Harding overcame a 19-point first half deficit but could not hold on in overtime and fell 72-71 to ninth-ranked Arkansas Tech on Thursday at the Rhodes Field House. It was a meeting of the top two teams in the Gulf South Conference West Division, and the Wonder Boys clinched the division championship with the victory.
Harding has trailed by 10 points or more in a game and come back to win seven different times this season. Thursday, the Bisons used a 26-7 second-half run and took its first lead of the game at 55-54 with 9:46 left on freshman Weston Jameson's 3-pointer.
Harding (21-4, 11-2) led the rest of the half; until Arkansas Tech's Jared Williamson tied the game on a jumper with 36 seconds left and sent the game into overtime tied at 65.
Five straight points from Arkansas Tech's Jeremy Dunbar in the overtime period gave the Wonder Boys a 70-67 lead with 2:47 left. The second of Dunbar's field goals, a 3-pointer, was the last Arkansas Tech basket of the game, but Harding struggled to take advantage.
The Bisons cut the Wonder Boy lead to one with a Kirk Porter free throw with 2:15 remaining but missed their next seven straight free throws down the stretch. Willie Sanders made two free throws for Arkansas Tech and gave his team a 72-68 lead with 41 seconds left. Harding's Bradley Spencer made a long 3-pointer with 16 seconds remaining to trim the lead back to one point.
Arkansas Tech senior Laithe Massey then missed a pair of free throws, but Stephen Blake's off-balanced 3-pointer at the buzzer sailed just long.
The second meeting between the teams this season was a complete contrast to the first. Arkansas Tech forced 26 turnovers and defeated Harding by 30 points in Russellville, Ark., on Jan. 27.
Harding got much better play from its post players Thursday. Both starters, Porter and Kevin Brown, recorded double-doubles. Brown led Harding with 22 points and added 11 rebounds. Porter scored 13 points and had 10 rebounds.
Blake scored 20 points, hitting 6-of-6 from the foul line, and Bradley Spencer had 11 rebounds.
Johnie Davie led Arkansas Tech with 22 points. Massey had 13 points, 11 rebounds, seven steals and six assists.
Harding will conclude its regular season Saturday at Henderson State. Tipoff at the Duke Wells Center is at 4 p.m.
The Bisons have clinched the No. 2 seed from the West Division in the upcoming GSC Tournament. Alabama-Huntsville has won the East Division, but four teams are still in contention for the other three spots. Harding will play the No. 3 seed from the East.