MONTICELLO – Behind a full-court press and outstanding defense, East Central was able to slow down the leading scorer in the Great American Conference, Kori Forge of Arkansas-Monticello.
It was an effort that forced UAM (13-8, 8-7) head coach Allen Sharpe to turn to junior forward Brandon Sims, who came off the bench to score a game-high 26 points and 13 rebounds to lift the Boll Weevils to a 65-52 win over the Tigers (7-14, 4-11).
“It was tough,” Sims after recording his second double-double this season. “We needed the win and I’m all about team work. I do what I need to do when the team needs me.”
ECU was led in scoring by Colby Carr, who finished with 12 points.
Trailing for most of the game, and by a score of 27-25 at the half, Sharpe knew he needed to make some adjustments to make a difference after the Boll Weevils used a 19-9 run to start the game.
“That first half was like they hit us in the mouth,” Sharpe said. “At halftime, I got after them and yelled at them. That’s what got us over the hump.”
UAM forced eight second-half turnovers and harassed ECU into 32-percent shooting (8 of 25) in the second-half, which eventually led to the series sweep between the schools this season and second win for the Boll Weevils.
ECU came into the game ranked eighth in the conference in field-goal shooting percentage, and didn’t fare much better against UAM despite its 47-41 lead with 10:53 remaining in the second period. The Tigers finished 19 of 55 (34.5 percent) from the field.
“They’re an emotional-type team,” said Sharpe. “It was like something clicked and they started turning the heat up on us. We’ll have stretches where we have a hard time scoring and we kind of hit one of those stretches.”
Forge, meanwhile, downplayed his role as a scorer even though that’s what he has been all season for the Boll Weevils.
Sims wound up shooting 10 of 14 from the floor, mostly in the paint where the Boll Weevils outscored the Tigers, 36-24. He went 6 of 8 from the free-throw line.
“We just trying to fight to get a first round bye,” said Sims, who played 27 minutes in the game.
Forge said that the Boll Weevils want to at least finish second in the GAC, which they would have to play in two games to win the conference tournament.
“All these games are big,” Forge added, who played 40 minutes and scored 11 points. “We travel to Southern Nazarene Saturday and it’s always good to pick up a conference road win.”
Forge and Sims combined for 49 points in the first meeting against the Crimson Storm in a 72-56 win at the Steelman Fieldhouse Jan. 10.
In that game, the Boll Weevils led a 13-0 run through the first five minutes of the game.
East Central 63,
Monticello –Kodi Morrison’s layup with 0.4 seconds left helped East Central (17-4, 12-3) survive an upset on the road with a 63-61 win Saturday against Arkansas-Monticello (4-16, 2-13).
Dilan Webster, who led all starters with 14 points, put the Tigers up with two free throws, overcoming a 60-59 deficit in the last minute.
UAM had led 49-42 midway through the second half, but the Tigers used its bench players to get back in the game outscoring the Blossoms 15-3, led by Regan Brown, who scored a game-high 18 points.
Ashley Qualls had 12 points for the Blossoms, which lost for the third time in the last four games.