3-Point Shooting Lifts ECU Over Tech

East Central University heated up from the perimeter in the second half to defeat Arkansas Tech University 81-73 in men’s basketball first-round play at the Great American Conference Tournament in Bartlesville, Okla. on Thursday afternoon.

The Tigers (22-7) torched the Bruin Fieldhouse nets for 6-of-9 shooting from 3-point range in the final 20 minutes as they erased a five-point halftime deficit and advanced to the GAC Tournament semifinals on Saturday.

Arkansas Tech ended its 2015-16 season with a 15-14 overall record.

“These are high-character kids,” said Wonder Boys head coach Chad Kline following the loss. “They did everything I asked them to do this season. We have four seniors on this team…one of them has already graduated, and the other three will this spring. In the long run, that’s really what it’s about. We got some point-blank shots late in the game today and couldn’t get them to fall. We ran out of gas, but our effort never showed it.”

East Central made its first five field goal tries and raced out to an 11-0 lead at the 17:23 mark of the first half.

Unfazed, Arkansas Tech chipped away and took its first lead of the day at 24-23 on a 3-pointer by Andrew Guillory with 4:46 left until intermission.

It was the beginning of an 8-0 run for the Wonder Boys. Guillory made a layup and Freddy Lee added a 3-pointer to give Arkansas Tech a 29-23 edge. The Wonder Boys went on to lead 36-31 at halftime.

The momentum permanently shifted to the Tigers over the first four minutes of the second half. ECU outscored Tech 15-4 over that span. Donovan Halsel made three 3-pointers during the run, including a trey at the 16:13 mark of the second half that capped the surge and gave East Central a 46-40 edge.

The Tigers maintained their lead the rest of the way and made their final six field goal tries to secure the victory.

“The first five minutes in both halves were the difference in the game,” said Kline.

ECU’s Stirling Thomas scored 26 points to lead all scorers. Ishmael Donzo notched 15 points, Halsel scored all 14 of his points in the second half and Braxton Reeves contributed 12 points for the Tigers, who were 3-0 against Arkansas Tech this season after losing to the Wonder Boys in the 2015 GAC Tournament final.

Guillory poured in 20 points and Tyler Corley had 19 points, 16 of which came in the second half, for the Wonder Boys. Nick Wayman had 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots and three steals.

The loss marked the final career game for Arkansas Tech’s four seniors — Guillory, Wayman, Bryson Fletcher and DeChriston McKinney.