The Bisons’ home win streak ended on Saturday night to the 19th-ranked Boll Weevils of Arkansas-Monticello. With under 1:30 remaining, the Bisons led by five, but a pair of UAM threes quickly turned the game around.
Questionable GSC officiating reared its head again, as the Bisons were not awarded a legitimate free throw opportunity late in the game. With Harding clinging to a lead, it looked as if the call wouldn’t matter, but the tenor of the game changed dramatically when Deron Brown’s three gave the Weevils a one-point lead with 44 seconds to go. In a league with such evenly-matched teams, poor officiating is always going to have a magnified effect, and that turned out to be the case on Saturday. Of course there’s no guarantee that the Bisons, who have struggled of late at the free-throw line, would have made the shot, but they were not given the chance.
Having said that, HU certainly had chances to win this game and make the poor call a moot point. There are plenty of poor calls over the course of a season, and they tend to even out between teams. The reality in this game is that the Bisons couldn’t defend the perimeter shot in the closing minutes.
Weevil coach Mike Newell, who certainly knows a thing or two about winning, willed his team to victory on Saturday. Not even Tyler Hansbrough and Tim Tebow combined could have accomplished this feat on the floor (after all, neither is a good 3-point shooter), so you might even say that his coaching was Wooden-esque.
Actually, if anyone deserves coaching accolades for this game, it’s Harding coach Jeff Morgan, who has kept his undersized team competitive all season. I guess I should say that in case anyone thought that last paragraph was in any way serious. Maybe at some point we’ll delve into Newell’s coaching career even more, but I might lose interest if UAM ever takes down that ridiculous bio page.
Moving on to the stats from Saturday’s game, there was really only one standout on the Harding side: guard Sam Brown. After disappearing from Thursday’s game against Christian Brothers, Brown returned to burn down the nets on Saturday with 18 points on just 9 shot attempts. Most of those came during a three-point barrage in the first half, but Brown still led the team in scoring. Trent Morgan was the only other double-figure scorer for the Bisons, although he needed 13 shots to get his 14 points.
Steven Barnett had a game he would probably like to forget: a 2-for-9 shooting performance and 8 of the team’s 18 turnovers will accomplish that. Kevin Brown’s box score line doesn’t look quite as counter-productive, but he played just 21 minutes due to foul trouble, forcing the Bisons to play small for much of the game.
Just like the Buccaneers on Thursday, the Weevils were strong on the offensive glass, bringing down 15 offensive rebounds to the Bisons’ 20 on the defensive side. That was a strong performance compared to the Bisons’ relatively average showing: 13 offensive boards vs. UAM’s 22 on defense. The turnover and shooting battles were fairly even, so it’s probably not a stretch to say that UAM’s extra chances were the difference in the game.
Ray Wright had five of UAM’s 15 offensive rebounds and a game-high 26 points. Like Nick Kohs on Thursday, he continued to advance his case as one of the GSC’s premier interior players. His double-double came in just 28 foul-plagued minutes on the floor.
This week will close the first half of the conference schedule for Harding, and it will be important for playoff positioning. The Bisons have a tenuous grasp of the #5 slot in the standings with a 2-3 record, and this week’s matchups are against two of their biggest competitors for that spot. Thursday’s home game is against 3-2 Delta State, while Saturday’s road contest is against 1-4 Ouachita Baptist, the coaches’ preseason favorite to win the West.
I may have another recap to write before those games later this week, since I will be attending the Davidson-UTC game on Wednesday night in Chattanooga. I can probably go ahead and summarize it for you, though: Stephen Curry.