MONTICELLO — At halftime of Saturday’s game at Steelman Fieldhouse, the Arkansas-Monticello men’s basketball team probably didn’t know what had hit them.
Northwest Oklahoma State’s Laakeem Henderson had 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field, including going 2-for-2 from behind the arc, and the Rangers had a 30-26 lead at the break. It was an incredible start considering the sophomore guard entered the game averaging just five points per game and having connected on just 2-of-12 three-pointers in the team’s first four games.
Thankfully for the Boll Weevils, Henderson and the Rangers came back down to Earth in the second half, and UAM held off a late charge for a 71-61 Great American Conference win.
“No. 5 (Henderson) comes out and makes the first eight points when he’s only averaging five points a game,” UAM head coach Allen Sharpe said. “I mean, he comes down and hits back-to-back threes and then hits a jumper.
“It’s hard when they get off to such a good start. Especially when, I think they are the worst three-point shooting team in the conference.”
Yes, in fact, they are, but they sure didn’t show it early on.
NWOSU, which came into the game making less than a quarter of its three-point attempts (24.4 percent), hit 5-of-11 from behind the arc in the first half. But the Rangers (2-3, 1-1 in GAC) fell victim to the statistical principle of regressing towards the mean with a putrid 1-for-11 three-point performance in the second half to finish at a 27.2 percent clip from deep.
On the other side, senior Brandon Wilson and junior Sharif Hudson were carrying the Weevils (3-2, 1-1).
The duo combined to score 19 of UAM’s 26 first-half points, including the team’s first 17 points. Wilson finished with a game-high 22 points and a team-high seven rebounds, while Hudson totaled 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including 3-for-5 from three-point range.
“Brandon Wilson gave us a good game,” Sharpe said. “And, I thought, Sharif Hudson really stepped up.
“I mean, to go 9-for-11 as a guard is really impressive.”
UAM dominated in most areas of the game, but struggled to get production off the bench. The Weevils held a 36-26 lead in point in the paint, a 20-10 edge in points off turnovers, a 13-4 lead in second-chance points and a 10-4 edge in fast-break points. However, NWOSU held a 21-9 edge in bench points.
Sharpe thinks part of the issue is that he is still trying to find a consistent rotation.
“I’m still not sold on our rotation,” Sharpe said. “I mean, part of it is that one guy will score 20 (points) one night and the next night 0.
“There are some players we know will be in the rotation, but with some others we still really don’t know yet.”
While, Sharpe wasn’t thrilled with how his team played, he was happy the Weevils were able to avoid an 0-2 start in GAC play. UAM lost its conference opener, 74-65, to Southwestern Oklahoma State on Thursday night.
“It could be worse,” Sharpe said. “We ended up with a split.
“Hopefully, it makes the morale a lot better.”
UAM’s next contest will be a nonconference home game against Maryville University (Mo.) at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“They’re just as good, if not better, than anybody else in our league,” Sharpe said of Maryville. “It’s tough with nonconference games in with the conference games.
“I’m one of those guys that I would rather we just play all the nonconference games first, because you hate to admit it but you kind of approach them differently.”
UAM 82, NWOSU 80 (OT)
MONTICELLO — Arkansas-Monticello sophomore guard Tamia Grady hit a layup with 3.8 seconds left in overtime to lift her team to an 82-80 win over Northwestern Oklahoma State on Saturday at Steelman Fieldhouse.
Grady finished with 25 points and became UAM’s go-to player after fellow sophomore Jordan Goforth, who finished with a game-high 31 points, fouled out with 2:54 left in the overtime period.
Grady’s game-winner finished off a back-and-forth contest that featured 16 ties and 16 lead changes.
The Cotton Blossoms bounced back from a rough first half that saw them shoot just 28 percent to the Rangers 54.2 percent. Despite the difference in field goal percentage, NWOSU held just a 38-31 lead at the break.
Free throws proved key for UAM in the win. A 17-for-19 (89.5 percent) first-half performance from the line kept the Blossoms in the game, and UAM finished the contest 31-of-37 (83.8 percent) from the charity stripe.
The win improves the Blossoms to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the Great American Conference. The loss keeps NWOSU winless on the season at 0-6 and 0-2 in conference play.
UAM plays next against nonconference-foe West Florida at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Steelman Fieldhouse.