MONTICELLO — There are plenty of things in this world that are contagious and any basketball coach will say shooting is one of them.
Nobody who watched Arkansas-Monticello play Arkansas Tech on Thursday night would disagree with that premise.
UAM shot 51 percent from the field while ATU shot just 32.1 percent as the Weevils upset the No. 1 team in the Great American Conference, 70-49, at Steelman Fieldhouse.
The gulf in percentage only grew behind the three-point line.
The Boll Weevils (16-9, 9-8 GAC) connected on 8 of 14 (57.1 percent) three-point shots, while the Wonder Boys (16-8, 11-5) shot an abysmal 6 of 25 (24 percent) from behind the arc.
“I told the guys, ‘It’s like we had a bunch of imposters out there,’” UAM coach Allen Sharpe joked after the game. “To shoot those types of percentages and hold them to those numbers.
“It’s maybe the most complete game we’ve had this year.”
UAM junior Kenric McCants, who finished with 12 points, scored the game’s first eight points including back-to-back three pointers.
“That stuff is contagious,” Sharpe said. “Making shots and missing shots, too.
“Kenric isn’t a great shooter, but he’s a big shot kind of guy.”
The Weevils opened up a 22-12 lead —their largest of the first half — on a pair of free throws by Brandon Wilson, who had a game-high 21 points, with 9:52 left in the first half.
ATU, which came in on a five-game winning streak, finally got going and even took the lead at 27-26 on a layup by Kendall Pinkney at the 3:43 mark.
Down 33-32, the Wonder Boys had a chance to take the halftime lead but Clarke Overlander missed a wide-open three-pointer at the buzzer.
“It was kind of a relief,” Sharpe said of the missed shot. “It would have been such a letdown, like that guy for Southern Nazarene hitting one.
“But still we can’t bank on them missing shots.”
Well, actually for most of Thursday night they could.
After ATU’s Darrick Little hit a three-pointer with 5:42 left in the first half, the Wonder Boys made just 1 of 15 three-point shots the rest of the game.
Overall in the second half, ATU made just 6 of 29 (20.7 percent) shots from the floor and 1 of 13 (7.7 percent) three-pointers.
“I think we did a better job with the gameplan,” Sharpe said. “We always talk about who’s a driver and who’s a shooter.
“Which means backing up on drivers and not helping off of shooters.”
Thursday night’s win officially qualifies UAM for March’s GAC tournament in Bartesville, Okla., but there’s no time to relax with a road game at Harding on Saturday.
“You know, I’m not sure I’ve ever won at Harding,” Sharpe said. ”It’s an enjoyable place to play, though.
“It’s small college basketball at its best. I mean it’s a small gym with a lot of loud fans, so it’s not an easy place to play but it’s just so fun.”
Sharpe’s hoping the Weevils can carry some momentum into Saturday’s matchup.
“I told the guys, ‘You never know when it’s going to click,’” Sharpe said. “I mean we lost three in a row.
“Now we got this win, and hopefully we can build on this.”
Arkansas Tech 58, UAM 43
MONTICELLO — The Cotton Blossoms weren’t able to carry over the momentum of their first win of 2014 into Thursday’s game.
Arkansas Tech (14-8, 10-6 Great American Conference) got 24 points from sophomore Caroline Eubanks, including 17 in the first half.
The Golden Suns led 28-22 at halftime.
With 13:30 left in the second half, the Blossoms were within 35-31. Arkansas Tech, though, responded with a 15-0 run to put the game out of reach.
Tamia Grady led UAM (6-1, 2-15) with 11 points but finished just 3 of 12 from the field.