MONTICELLO — Arkansas-Monticello men’s basketball coach Allen Sharpe was happy when his team’s game against East Central (Okla.)was done.
It was not just because the Boll Weevils pulled out a 75-69 win Saturday, but because his team staved off a major comeback attempt by East Central.
The Boll Weevils had a 23-point lead earlier in the game, but they saw it slip all the way down to five points before holding on for the win.
“I am just glad it’s over with,” Sharpe said after the game. “We got through it, we found a ways to get through it and found a way to win it.
“We made a couple of big free throws down the stretch and got it over with.”
The win came against an East Central team looking for its first conference win. The Tigers fell to 0-6 in the Great American Conference and 3-13 overall.
L.A. Farmer scored a game-high 22 points for UAM (14-3, 4-1 GAC).
The Boll Weevils were absolutely controlling the game by halftime. UAM had a 23-point lead after Farmer hit a three-pointer with six seconds left at the half , but the Tigers got a bucket at the buzzer to make it 45-24.
UAM forced 11 turnovers, which were turned into 13 points, and drew 12 personal fouls with the Boll Weevils going 17-of-20 from the free-throw line. UAM shot 46 percent (12-of-26) while the Tigers shot 33 percent (8-of-24).
“Monticello came out ready to play and didn’t take us lightly,” East Central coach Joe Redmond said. “They came out and stuck it to us.”
But the Boll Weevils did not come out as the same team in the second half.
“I think we come into the locker room and we slumped down and got out of our game plan a little bit,” Farmer said. “We just have to come back hard and keep winning.”
East Central slowly chipped away at UAM’s lead got within double-digits at 65-57 with 4:58 left in the game. The Boll Weevils’ lead was down to 67-62 with two minutes left.
Part of the reason the Tigers came out with a better second half is that Redmond offered his team another choice at halftime.
“I saw no fight in my team,” he said. “I told them at half, they can lay down as much as they want, but come Sunday at five o’clock, you are going to wish you picked yourselves up.
“I think they took that message seriously.”
The Boll Weevils were able to make some timely shots and free throws from that point and held on for the win.
Ricardo Hall scored 14 points for UAM and Kori Forge added 13 points and three steals. Farmer also had six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Caprest Rhone led the Tigers with 20 points and Bobby McAdoo scored 19.
Forty percent of the Boll Weevils’ scoring came from the free throw line as they made 30-of-39 from the stripe.
“That’s what saved us,” Sharpe said. “We made more than they attempted, and if you are making more than they attempt, you have a really good chance to win.”
East Central attempted 29 free throws and made just 14, which Redmond said was a deciding factor.
“We missed 15 free throws and lost by seven,” he said. “We always find a way to keep us from winning.”
The Tigers dominated the boards as they outrebounded the Boll Weevils 40 to 27 and had 19 offensive rebounds — 12 in the second half.
East Central also scored 18 second chance points in the second half.
“They are big and physical and strong and we knew that coming into this thing, but it can’t be an excuse,” Sharpe said. “We still have to find a way to get the job done.”
Even though Monticello shot well from the free-throw line, Sharpe said the team’s defense in the first half was a big factor.
“I wouldn’t say our defense saved us, but the first half defense saved us and I hope the guys see that,” he said. “I feel like (East Central) scored every trip down the stretch (in the second half), but we did a good job in the first half guarding them and holding them.
“(In the second half) it felt like we were never on the (offensive) end of the floor. It felt like we were always down on the other end trying to guard them.”
UAM plays Monday at Southern Arkansas.
East Central 75, UAM 67
MONTICELLO — UAM had a 38-33 halftime lead against East Central, but the Tigers’ 10-0 run to begin the second half doomed the Cotton Blossoms.
“I challenge our players to come out after the half and play fired up and with more passion,” UAM coach Tanya Ray said. “We just didn’t do that. It was disappointing that we didn’t do that.”
The Cotton Blossoms fell to 4-11 overall and 0-5 in the GAC. East Central is 4-12 and 2-4 in the GAC.
Channon Haywood had a double-double for UAM with 11 points and 11 rebounds and Emili Slamons made four three-pointers to finish with 12 points.