Arkansas Tech 64, Harding 60
Thursday night’s game was a battle between GSC West unbeatens, and Arkansas Tech edged Harding in Searcy, 64-60. The Wonder Boys have emerged this year as a very good team because of their strong backcourt of Darren Tarver and Terrance Whiters. Add a handful of efficient role players, and it’s easy to see how a team like ATU can make a quick transition from league doormat to powerhouse.
A quick glance at the table above shows that this was a defensive struggle between two solid offensive teams. Only Delta State (which returns to the middle of the pack overall because the Statesmen play the league’s worst defense) has been better than the Bisons on offense in GSC play, but Tech plays the league’s best defense, and the Wonder Boys won in that regard.
Both teams were atrocious from three-point range, and Harding actually was a bit more consistent in making two-point shots, so the killer in this one was ATU’s rebounding. Tech picked up 27 of 31 available defensive rebounds, leaving three for Jesse Bynum and one for Kevin Brown. No other Bison had an offensive rebound.
Four offensive rebounds would be an acceptable performance if they were shooting 65% from the field, but not 45%. ATU, on the other hand, took 13 of their 35 available offensive rebounds. The Bisons didn’t turn the ball over as often as the Wonder Boys did, but it added up to a few more shots for the visitors and an ATU victory.
Trent Morgan was actually the leading scorer with 16, while Matt Hall had 14 on 13 shots. Morgan also had 5 assists, and he continues to be the team’s third most-efficient offensive regular, behind Hall and Bynum (who had 6 points and 5 boards in 18 minutes).
Harding 60, Henderson State 57
Saturday’s trip to Henderson State was an everything-to-lose kind of game for the Bisons, who would have been in danger of dropping several spots in the conference standings with a loss, while the Reddies had only two wins all season and no conference wins. It was yet another defensive struggle, but the Bisons prevailed this time and improved to 4-1. After Tech lost at home to UAM, Harding pulled back into a tie for first place.
The Reddies kept the pace slow in this one, with each team having just 61 possessions. Even though this was typical of the Henderson State style, it was a good strategy against a Harding team that had to be favored.
Efficiency was somewhat low for both teams, but Harding’s fell short of what should have been solid numbers against a well-below-average HSU defense. The outside shots still weren’t falling, and Matt Hall still wasn’t getting enough chances, so the Bisons barely made enough to survive. HU did keep the turnovers down again, and they did right the rebounding ship with a solid effort on offense (with a roughly average 28% mark) and strong defensive glass work (almost 80%).
Hall and Jesse Bynum both scored 12, tying for the team lead as the only Bisons in double figures. There just weren’t any other offensive performances to write home about. Kevin Brown was the only Bison besides Bynum to make more than half of his field goal attempts, and no one had more than a single assist.
There’s always some degree of home-cooking in assist totals anyway, and it couldn’t be more apparent when you see a team like Harding, which was averaging 1 assist for every 2 made baskets entering this game (figured using road games only, so as to eliminate Rhodes bias). In this game, they were credited with 1 assist per 8 made baskets, while the Reddies were generously given 16 on their total of 24 field goals made, 9 of them going to Antoine Vinson alone.
Regardless of official scorer bias, the Bisons won the game and will get to show that they can indeed pass the ball when the rivals face off again in Searcy next month (on CSTV).
That’s it for now. Stat pages are updated through Saturday’s games.