Harding Men's Basketball wins at Northwestern Oklahoma

ALVA, OK (HARDING) - Senior Hayden Johnson led Harding in scoring for the fourth consecutive Great American Conference game, the Bisons overcame a first half deficit for a 69-63 road victory over Northwestern Oklahoma on Saturday at Percefull Fieldhouse.

Johnson, who averages 26.0 points in conference games, scored 23 on 7-of-11 shooting. Sophomore Tony Cochran had 13 points and four steals, freshman Will Francis scored all 11 of his points in the second half, and sophomore Andraz Kavas also added 11 points.

"It was a gutsy effort by our team," Harding head coach Jeff Morgan said. "We knew Northwestern would come out and play well, but we showed great composure and determination in the second half."

With the victory, Harding evened its overall record to 5-5 and its conference record to 2-2. Northwestern Oklahoma lost its fifth straight home game and fell to 4-7 overall and 1-4 in GAC action.

Northwestern entered the game with the poorest shooting statistics of any team in the GAC but shot 44 percent in the first half, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range. Harding shot just 30 percent in the first half but only trailed by six, 31-25, at halftime.

"Our guys said in the huddle that they just wanted to get the lead down to single digits before halftime," Morgan said. "We relied on the 3-pointer too much early, but in the last 10 minutes of the half, we attacked the paint and that helped us close the gap."

Harding opened the second half with a 7-2 run and eventually tied the score at 35-35 by the first media timeout. Francis then scored the next five points on a layup and a 3-pointer that put the Bisons ahead to stay.

Harding shot 54 percent in the second half and made 12-of-14 free throws. The Bisons outscored the Rangers, who made only 1-of-8 3-pointers after the break, 44-32 in the second half.

Harding, who made 13 3-pointers in its 89-65 victory Thursday at Southwestern Oklahoma, made only 7-of-24 (29 percent) from long range Saturday but still earned the win.

"We have to learn to win games when the 3s are not falling," Morgan said. "We found a way to win without that. We got to the free throw line and were much more aggressive offensively."

Harding made 18-of-25 free throws, outscoring Northwestern by 13 points and the free throw line.

The two-game weekend sweep marked the first time in three seasons in the GAC that Harding's men won both games on a trip to Oklahoma.

Harding will return to the Rhodes Field House on Thursday to take on Henderson State at 7:30 p.m.