When winning time arrived at Tucker Coliseum on Thursday night, Arkansas Tech University head coach Dave Wilbers turned to his 2-3 zone defense.
The Golden Suns held East Central University scoreless for the final 2:44 and earned a 64-56 win over the Tigers, who entered the game in sole possession of second place in the GAC standings.
"Our zone defense might have been the difference," said Wilbers. "We challenged their shots real well. We made plays at clutch time. The girls did a good job looking for each other, and we were able to gut out a win over a good team."
ECU (14-5 overall, 9-4 GAC) took a 56-54 lead on a Tia Williams 3-pointer with 2:44 left, but those proved to be the Tigers' final points of the night.
Hannah Villines tied the score on a pair of free throws and gave the Golden Suns (8-11, 5-8) the lead for good at 58-56 when she took a Jayana Sanders pass and laid it in at the 1:44 mark.
After a Tiger turnover, Ke'Vonshaye Stackhouse swooped to the basket for a scoop shot, was fouled and connected on the free throw to make it 61-56 with 1:08 left.
A steal and layup by Sanders with 20 seconds to go sealed it for the Golden Suns, who avenged a last-second 61-59 loss at East Central on Jan. 5 and improved to 9-1 all-time in home games against the Tigers.
Stackhouse matched her season high with 21 points, while Ryann Goodsell tied her career high for Tech with 16 points.
Nine of Villines' 11 points came in the fourth quarter. She collected 10 rebounds. Sanders dished out a season-high eight assists.
Tia Williams had 12 points for ECU, which lost for just the second time in its last 13 games.
Arkansas Tech led 17-9 after one quarter and by as many as 12 points early in the second quarter.
That was when East Central found its shooting touch from the perimeter.
The Tigers, who rank top 25 in NCAA Division II in 3-point field goals made per game, were 0-of-4 from beyond the arc in the first quarter. They were 4-of-7 from that distance in the second quarter.
East Central made six of its final eight field goal tries overall to close out the opening half and went to the intermission with a 34-32 edge. The Tigers outscored the Golden Suns 10-0 in points off the bench during the first two quarters.
Both defenses locked down in the third period. The two sides were a combined 7-of-26 from the field during those 10 minutes and ECU maintained its two-point lead going to the final period.
The Golden Suns will host Southeastern Oklahoma State University for a 1 p.m. GAC contest at Tucker Coliseum on Saturday, Feb. 2.
Tickets ($5 adults/$3 students and senior citizens) will be available at the door. Free admission will be granted to those with a valid ATU identification card.
Radio station KCJC 102.3 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com will provide live coverage.