Pittsburg State University seized the momentum late in the first half and held off a late flurry by Arkansas Tech University to earn a 73-68 victory over Wonder Boys in non-conference men’s basketball at John Lance Arena in Pittsburg, Kan., on Wednesday afternoon.
The Wonder Boys (6-6) led throughout the first half, but the Gorillas closed the opening period on a 6-0 run to trim Tech’s advantage to 31-30 at halftime.
Pitt State (6-4) kept it going early in the second half, taking its first lead of the game on a Josiah Gustafson bucket at the 19:29 mark and outscoring Arkansas Tech 18-4 over the first 6:51 of the half to open up a 48-35 lead.
The Gorillas went on to lead by as many as 17 points, but Tech’s Mike Balogun brought the outcome very much into doubt in the closing minutes.
With the Wonder Boys trailing 69-57, Balogun was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer with 2:21 left. He made all three free throws. Pitt State committed the same mistake with 1:40 left, and again Balogun went 3-for-3 at the line. His six free throws in a span of 41 seconds pulled Arkansas Tech within 69-63.
Balogun made it 69-66 by nailing a 3-pointer with 55 seconds left, but that proved to be the end of the rally. The Wonder Boys missed their final three field goal attempts and the Gorillas made 4-of-8 free throw tries over the final 50 seconds to hang on for their fifth consecutive win.
The victory gave Pitt State a regular season sweep of Arkansas Tech. The Gorillas earned a 76-56 win over the Wonder Boys in Russellville on Nov. 19.
Just like he did in the first meeting of the season, Devon Branch scored 18 points to lead four Pitt State players to reach double figures in scoring. Gustafson (13 points), Lamine Dieng (10 points) and Trevor Gregory (10 points) were also among the Gorillas’ leading scorers on Wednesday.
Pitt State was 11-of-18 (61 percent) from the field in the second half.
Balogun finished with 21 points for Arkansas Tech. Darrick Little netted 16 points for the Wonder Boys. Fifteen of Arkansas Tech’s 19 turnovers came in the second half.
The Wonder Boys will resume Great American Conference play on Saturday, Jan. 3, with a 3 p.m. home game against the University of Arkansas-Monticello. A women’s game between the two institutions will begin at 1 p.m., also at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville.