SEARCY (HardingSports.com) - Sophomore Jacob Gibson scored 28 points and all five Harding starters scored at least 10 as the Bisons defeated Southern Arkansas 92-80 on Thursday in Great American Conference action at Rhodes Field House.
Harding's highest offensive output of the season helped the Bisons improve to 8-6 overall and 5-3 in the GAC, good for fourth place following the night's action around the conference. Southern Arkansas' ninth straight loss to Harding dropped the Muleriders to 5-7 overall and 2-5 in the GAC, where they are part of a four-team tie for seventh place.
"We played hard and made some toughness plays at the end," Harding head coach Jeff Morgan said. "We really executed down the stretch made some free throws and got some huge offensive rebounds."
Jacob Gibson scored 19 points in the first half, including eight during an 11-0 run that gave the Bisons a 20-14 lead at the 10:28 mark.
Harding led the rest of the half and bumped its lead to 11 at 32-21 on Gibson's third 3-pointer of the half with 4:24 left. Southern Arkansas got as close as four points, but Harding took a 40-34 lead into halftime.
Opened the second half on a 12-4 run to pull out to a 52-38 lead before Southern Arkansas called timeout with 17:16 left.
The Muleriders closed to within six points three times in the second half, the third coming at the 7:40 mark with the Bisons ahead 72-66. Harding answered with a 3-pointer from Gibson and a layup from Blake McNair and led by eight or more the rest of the way.
Gibson shot 10-of-17 and made 4-of-9 3-point attempts. McNair also made four 3s and tied his career high with 16 points. Senior Hayden Johnson scored 16 of his 17 points in the second half after missing all but the first four minutes of the first half with foul trouble.
Freshman Will Francis added 15 points, seven rebounds, and five assists for the Bisons, and senior Weston Jameson had 10 points and eight assists. Harding had only five turnovers, matching its lowest total of the season.
"Southern Arkansas really extend their defense in the 1-3-1 zone, but we did a good job of getting some shots in the paint and limiting our turnovers," Morgan said.
Chauncy Williams made seven 3-pointers and led Southern Arkansas with 25 points, and Alre'k Brown added 24 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Harding's nine-game winning streak over Southern Arkansas is the longest for either team in a series that dates to 1957.