SEARCY (HardingSports.com) - Harding connected on 10 3-pointers and outscored Southern Nazarene by 10 points at the free throw line in a 74-66 victory Thursday in Great American Conference play at Rhodes Field House.
The victory was Harding's sixth in seven games at home this season and boosted the Bisons' record to 10-8 overall and 7-5 in the GAC. Harding is tied with Arkansas-Monticello for third place in the conference standings. Southern Nazarene lost its third straight road game and fell to 8-9 overall and 6-5 in the GAC. As a provisional member, the Crimson Storm is not eligible for the conference tournament.
"If you don't win that one, it leaves a sour taste in your mouth for the next week," Harding head coach Jeff Morgan said. His Bisons have a week off before hosting Northwestern Oklahoma on Feb. 6.
Harding used a 10-0 run late in the first half to pull out to an 11-point lead. Southern Nazarene made the final shot before halftime, but Harding led 34-25 at the break.
"I was good to finish the half the way we did," Morgan said. "We were very efficient in those final two or three minutes and made a good run."
Southern Nazarene's CJ Smith, the GAC's leading scorer at 21.6 points per game, had only two points in the first half. The Crimson Storm also shot only one first-half free throw.
"They are so good off the dribble, and keeping them off the line in the first half was huge," Morgan said.
Smith then scored 11 points during a 16-5 Southern Nazarene run to open the second half. The Crimson Storm took the lead on two Smith free throws and extended it to 43-39 with 15:06 left on a Smith 3-pointer.
Harding responded with a 14-2 run of its own. The Bisons retook the lead 44-43 on a Hayden Johnson 3-pointer, and Jacob Gibson capped the run with another 3-pointer that gave Harding a 53-45 lead with 8:23 left.
The Bisons led by at least five points the rest of the way.
"We really responded well their run," Morgan said. "The guys did a great job of keeping their composure, and we played great team basketball."
Gibson led Harding in scoring for the third straight game. He made 4-of-7 3-pointers and 6-of-8 free throws and had 22 points. Johnson made three 3-pointers and had 19 points, six rebounds and five assists. Blake McNair made all five of his free throws and scored 13.
Smith led Southern Nazarene with 23 points, 21 coming in the second half. Harding's Weston Jameson, the GAC leader in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, had six assists and only one turnover while playing all 40 minutes.
Harding made 22-of-31 free throws in the game, including 16-of-24 in the second half. Southern Nazarene shot 12-of-15 from the line.