RUSSELLVILLE, Ark.—Bobby Hatchett led all players with 16 points, Bryson Fletcher went 4-for-4 with 14 points, and Marshawn Arnold had five points with six rebounds as the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys basketball team fought off a 14-point deficit in the second half to win 58-57 over the No. 6 Midwestern State Mustangs on Saturday in Tucker Coliseum.
The Wonder Boys basketball team scored the first two points of the game but Midwestern State went on a 19-4 run to make it 19-6 with 12:36 to go in the half. Tech could not get their shots to fall as they shot just 37.5% (6-16) in the first half compared to Midwestern State’s 44.8% (13-29). The Mustangs held on to their lead and took the 34-24 advantage into the half.
Tech came out cold again in the second half as the Mustangs defense gave up just six points in the first six minutes of the second half. With 15:27 to play and a 40-27 Midwestern State lead, the Wonder Boys found the spark they were looking for in Fletcher. Fletcher scored 12 points in just over five minutes of play to cut the Mustang lead to 47-43 with 9:32 to play.
The Wonder Boys tied the game at 47-47 with 7:17 to go but the Mustangs made another push and increased their lead to 57-49 with just 4:12 remaining. Another layup from Fletcher, followed by a three-pointer from Darrick Little, brought the score to 57-54 with Midwestern State on top and 3:35 to play in the game.
The game was scoreless until Hatchett went to the free-throw line and made them both to make it 57-56. Tech got the defensive stop they needed and with 1.4 seconds to play, the Mustangs sent Hatchett back to the free-throw line. Hatchett needed to make them both to take the lead and he did just that as Tech went on to win 58-57 over No. 6 Midwestern State.
The Wonder Boys shot 42.4% (14-33) from the field while Midwestern State shot 41.5% (22-53) on twenty more shots. Tech’s discipline and ability to get to the charity stripe made the difference in the game as they hit 28-of-38 free-throws while sending the Mustangs to the line just eight times (5-8). Hatchett made 10-of-12 from the free-throw line.
“I’m proud of the way we kept on battling,” said Wonder Boys head coach Doug Karleskint. “For a while we just couldn’t get over that hump, but eventually we did and came away with a huge victory.”
The victory came as the Wonder Boy’s second game of the Arkansas Tech Thanksgiving Classic.
The Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys basketball team hosted the Thanksgiving Classic Friday, November 29 and Saturday, November 30 in Russellville, Arkansas at Tucker Coliseum. The tournament featured two of the top teams in the nation in #6 Midwestern State and #10 Northeastern State along with Harding and Arkansas Tech.
All four teams participating in the Thanksgiving Classic made it to the NCAA Division II Tournament last season and are off to hot starts again this season.
Midwestern State entered the Thanksgiving Classic with a perfect 5-0 record on the season. The Mustangs are led by senior guard, Monzaigo Williams. Williams is averaging 18 points per game and four assists per game while shooting 48.0% from behind the arc. Other notable players for the Mustangs are DeJuan Plummer averaging 15 points per game, 6-9 forward Eddie D’Haiti, 6-3 guard Derrell Gibbs, 6-6 forward Derek Kaster, and 6-2 guard Cam Adderly. Midwestern State has made five consecutive NCAA Division II Tournament appearances. The Mustangs are coached by Nelson Haggerty and in three seasons at the helm, he has posted a 56-13 record. “We are very excited to be invited to this tournament. It will be our first time to play in Russellville, and there are four very good basketball teams playing,” said Haggerty. “This is a great opportunity for us to compete and grow as a team, hopefully coming away with a few wins,” he added.
Northeastern State entered the holiday tournament with a 4-1 record on the year. The RiverHawks are led by senior guard Bryton Hobbs. As a junior, Hobbs was named First Team All-Conference, Second Team All-Region, and earned an All-American honorable mention. The native of St. Louis, Missouri is averaging 22 points per game and five rebounds per contest. Other notable players include 6-1 guard Dalen Qualls (38%, 3pt), 6-1 guard Keon Littleton (11 ppg), 6-4 forward Landon DeMasters (10 ppg), and 6-7 forward Curtis Evans. Evans, a native of Springdale, AR is averaging ten points and 11 rebounds per game this year. Northeastern State is coached by Larry Gipson who is currently in his 17th season at Northeastern State. The long-time leader of the RiverHawk men’s basketball program has established a 268-189 record over his career. Gipson has posted nine winning seasons in his time at Northeastern State which include five 20-win campaigns and a national championship in 2003 (32-2 record). He has also led Northeastern State to five appearances in the NCAA Division II Tournament. When asked his thoughts on the Thanksgiving Classic, Coach Gipson said, “I think it is one of the outstanding D-II classics in the country. You have four NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago representing three great conferences. It makes for a great weekend of basketball.”
Harding began the 2013-14 season as the 25th ranked team nationally. The Bisons entered the tournament with a 2-3 record, coming off back-to-back losses against Southern Nazarene and Christian Brothers. The Bisons are led by 6-6 senior Hayden Johnson. Johnson is averaging 18 points and seven rebounds per game. Other notable players are 6-0 senior Weston Jameson (11 ppg), 6-4 sophomore Jacob Gibson (10 ppg), 5-9 sophomore Tony Cochran (7 ppg), and 6-10 sophomore Andraz Kavas (12 ppg, 7 reb). Harding is coached by Jeff Morgan who is currently in his 21st season with the Bisons. Morgan has a career record of 368-234 and a 351-224 record at Harding. In the 2012-13 season, Morgan led the Bisons to a 22-10 record, a tie for the Great American Conference regular season championship, and their fourth berth in the NCAA Tournament where Harding advanced to the regional semifinals for the first time in school history. Last year was Morgan’s fifth career 20-win season and his second in the last three years. “We are very excited to face two great basketball teams this week,” said Morgan. “I think there will be four great games. The people at home should come out and watch because there will be an NCAA Tournament feel at this tournament which is rare this early in the year.”
The Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys entered the holiday tournament riding a two-game winning streak with a 3-2 overall record. The Wonder Boys currently have five guys averaging double-figure points including 6-8 junior Darrick Little (13 ppg, 6 reb), 6-3 junior Marshawn Arnold (11 ppg), 6-5 junior Tyler Friedel (11 ppg), 6-4 junior Willie Rogers (10 ppg), and 6-2 junior Clarence Willard (10 ppg).
The Wonder Boys are coached by Doug Karleskint. In three seasons as the head coach at Tech, he has led the Wonder Boys to three consecutive NCAA tournaments and won or shared three consecutive Great American Conference championships. The 2011-12 season was one of Tech’s most successful seasons as the Wonder Boys finished the season ranked 15th nationally with a 26-6 overall record and a 13-3 GAC record. The Wonder Boys swept through the inaugural GAC tournament in 2011-12 with wins over Southern Arkansas, Ouachita Baptist, and Southwestern Oklahoma. From there, the Wonder Boys headed to the NCAA tournament for the fourth consecutive year and picked up a win over West Texas A&M in the first round before topping Tarleton State in overtime in the regional semifinals. Unfortunately, the Wonder Boys’ run would come to an end in the Sweet Sixteen at the hands of fifth-ranked Midwestern State.
“I am extremly excited to have these teams come to our classic. If you look around the country, you will not find a better D-II field than ours. We will be challenged all weekend which is good for us. We will get to see what we are made of,” said Karleskint.
In the first game of the tournament, the Wonder Boys’ Darrick Little had 21 points with five boards, Marshawn Arnold went 7-of-8 from the field to score 15 points, and Tyler Friedel added 12 points as the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys (4-2, 1-0 GAC) beat the No. 21 Northeastern State RiverHawks 73-68 in a back-and-forth game on Friday night in Tucker Coliseum.
The first half only saw one lead change which occurred just three minutes into the game when Tech went ahead 4-2 on a layup from Arnold. The Wonder Boys looked like they would run away with it early on when they pushed their lead to 17-5 with 12:09 on the clock, but the RiverHawks used their 7-4 turnover advantage to tie the game 29-29 at the half.
The Wonder Boys shot 47.8% (11-23) in the first half compared to Northeastern State’s 37.0% (10-27). Tech edged the RiverHawks 19-17 in rebounds while holding Northeastern State 0-for-11 from three-point land. Bryton Hobbs of Northeastern State led all players with 15 points at the half.
Friedel’s three-pointer just 20 seconds into the second half would be answered by a RiverHawk three-point basket on the next possession to set the tone of a wild second half. Tech went on an 8-0 run from 15:11 to 12:57 to go ahead 48-40 but the RiverHawks made their own 8-0 run to score the next eight points of the game.
With a 48-48 tie game, Bobby Hatchett sank a jumper to give Tech the advantage for the last lead change of the game.
Tech pushed the lead to 65-56 with 2:47 to play but the RiverHawks would not go away easily as they cut it to 68-65 with just 28 seconds left in the game. A huge block from Marshawn Arnold on the ensuing possession would seal it for the Wonder Boys as they went on to beat No. 21 Northeastern State, 73-68.
Tech committed 14 turnovers compared to Northeastern State’s seven but Tech’s four blocked shots and a 51.1% (23-45) field goal percentage helped the Wonder Boys to the finish. The Wonder Boys saw four players shoot above 50.0% from the field and outrebounded the RiverHawks 36 to 29.
“It was a tremendous win over a great opponent,” said head coach of the Wonder Boys, Doug Karleskint. “We made just enough stops to get the victory. I am so proud of our guys.”
Tech will return to action on Thursday, December 5 to take on conference opponent Southeastern Oklahoma. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.