The Muleriders made a couple of late runs, but they couldn’t catch the Bisons last night in Magnolia. The Bisons won 64-61 over the other currently hot team in the division, and now they own the division’s longest active winning streak at four games.
|St. Rose, Leon……||10||-1.3||0.0||16.7%||0.00||1.00||0.00||0.0%||1.5%||0.0|
The Bisons forced plenty of turnovers, and that turned out to be the difference in the game. Brandon Sims had five steals on his own, leading the team in that regard. Sims was also the leading scorer with 14, taking over on an off night for Matt Hall. Hall only attempted nine shots, but he still scored an efficient 13 points and grabbed 10 defensive rebounds in a strong game on both ends of the court. Reggie Bibb hit a couple of key threes and was the only other double-digit scorer for HU in a very balanced offensive effort.
The Bisons’ defense has been quite strong during the four-game win streak, holding each opponent during the streak to an offensive rating of 100 or less, which is a good mark to aim for. If they can keep this up, Harding can still reach the NCAA Tournament.
Mori Turpin was almost a one-man show for the Muleriders, on the other hand. Turpin went off from the beginning of the second half on, and he racked up 24 points overall. He cooled off just enough at the end for the Bisons to preserve the victory. Point guard Cory Green had 13 points, and center Leon Stone had 9 rebounds.
Shooting was pretty much a dead heat between the two teams, with the Bisons clocking in at a 51.9 TS% and the ‘Riders at 51.5. Rebounding was similarly even, with Harding bringing down 32.4% of available offensive boards and SAU grabbing 31.4%. The Bisons’ +6.1 mark in turnover ratio highlights where this game was won, and it happened to be in the area that is typically the least important of the key factors.
Elsewhere around the GSC
Ouachita Baptist completed a season sweep of their cross-town rival, Henderson State, with a 90-80 victory in Arkadelphia. The Reddies’ losing streak has kept the Bisons in the hunt for first place in the division, despite the Reddies’ three-game lead with three to play. Now, a Henderson State loss to Delta State would open the door for Harding to walk away with the division title. I’ll get into the details shortly. The stat pages will be on hold today until either school releases the box score for this game, by the way.
Christian Brothers pounded UAM last night in Memphis, 90-60, despite another lackluster scoring effort from Kevin Weybright. Nate Newell predictably led all scorers with 23 points on 40,000 shots from the field, or maybe just 20. I lost count.
Delta State returned to winning form last night against Arkansas Tech, but if you can’t return to winning form against them, there’s probably not much hope for your team. The Statesmen just edged the Wonder Boys at home, 74-69, not exactly the most inspiring type of victory. Turmaine Rice was virtually unstoppable, picking up 30 points and 10 rebounds for DSU. Terrance Whiters continued to be the poor man’s Nate Newell for Arkansas Tech, scoring 24 points on 6-of-17 shooting.
Saturday’s games will conclude the Gulf South regular season, and a lot of playoff seeds are on the line.
Here are the matchups:
- Christian Brothers at Harding
- Ouachita Baptist at Arkansas Tech
- Delta State at Henderson State
- Southern Arkansas at Arkansas-Monticello
CBU and Harding (currently tied for 2nd at 9-4) will fight for a guaranteed #2 seed in the conference, and possibly #1, depending on what Henderson State does against DSU. I expect the Reddies to win that game, but you never know what could happen. Christian Brothers is out of the race for #1, since they lost both of their games against Henderson State, but Harding, which split with the Reddies, could still finish #1. I’m not sure how, since my understanding of the remaining tiebreakers would also eliminate HU from winning (because of the two losses to DSU), but apparently it’s still possible.
A Harding loss would leave them alone in third place at 9-5 if Henderson State also wins, but Delta State would win the tiebreaker with HU if they beat the Reddies, so the Bisons could finish as low as fourth place.
The final game on the above schedule doesn’t appear to have any playoff ramifications, as both teams have been eliminated from the tournament hunt.
Here’s my estimate of the probability of each possible outcome in the final standings:
- (30%) HSU beats DSU, HU beats CBU, OBU beats ATU. Final order: HSU, HU, CBU, OBU, DSU.
- (29%) HSU beats DSU, CBU beats HU, OBU beats ATU. Final order: HSU, CBU, HU, OBU, DSU
- (18%) DSU beats HSU, HU beats CBU, OBU beats ATU. Final order: HU(?), HSU, CBU, DSU, OBU
- (17%) DSU beats HSU, CBU beats HU, OBU beats ATU. Final order: HSU, CBU, DSU, HU, OBU
- (6%) Any of the above, with ATU beating OBU: Not likely to happen, but just leave OBU fifth and arrange everyone else ahead of that.
So, I’d say the chance that Harding finishes either first or fourth would be roughly equal to the chance of them finishing second just by getting the job done in the game they control tomorrow night. It’s probably not worth worrying about getting that #1 seed. Plus, I don’t even have a clue how it would work. The #2 seed is certainly preferable to #3, since the Bisons don’t need an extra loss on their record, but either way, they would avoid Montevallo until the weekend games of the conference tournament. Fourth place would be incredibly unfortunate, as it would not only require an extra game, but it would set up a Friday matchup against well-rested UM. Plus, they would almost certainly have to win the tournament to reach the NCAAs. Let’s just hope for #1 or #2, which would all start with a win tomorrow night.