Nationally fourth-ranked Arkansas Tech shot 61 percent from the field in the second half and made its free throws down the stretch to earn an 85-78 victory over Henderson State Lady Reddies in the Gulf South Conference opener at the Duke Wells Center in Arkadelphia on Saturday.
Henderson State (9-4 overall, 0-1 GSC) closed the first half on an 18-7 run and led 36-35 at halftime. The score was tied 46-46 until Arkansas Tech's Jessica Weatherford made a layup, was fouled and added the free throw with 16:37 left to put the Golden Suns in front 49-46.
Arkansas Tech (12-1, 1-0) held Henderson State without a made field goal for a span of 4:59 to open a 63-55 edge with 11:23 remaining. The lead grew to 69-57 on a Jenny Vining put-back with 7:50 left and a Laura Beth Anderson steal and layup on the ensuing inbounds pass.
The Suns held the Lady Reddies off for the next five minutes. Weatherford hit a layup with 2:47 to go and Anderson made two free throws at the 2:31 mark to give Arkansas Tech a seemingly comfortable 78-67 lead.
Only trouble was that the Golden Suns did not make another field goal after that layup by Weatherford. Henderson State chipped away at its deficit, and when Malorie Marshall made a jumper in the paint with 27.3 seconds remaining the Arkansas Tech advantage was just 81-78.
Anderson made two free throws with 25.4 seconds left to rebuild the Suns' lead to 83-78. Shaquilah Davis came up with a defensive rebound on Henderson State's next possession and got the basketball to Anderson, who was fouled with 8.4 seconds left.
The senior from Springdale made both free throws to seal Arkansas Tech's eighth consecutive win this season and its ninth straight win over Henderson State dating back to 2006.
Weatherford had a season-high 23 points and a career-high 15 rebounds for the Golden Suns. She was 8-of-16 from the field and 7-of-8 at the free throw line.
Anderson notched 17 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals. Vining made 4-of-6 from 3-point range and scored 16 points. Davis had 11 points.
Gianna Woods netted 14 points to lead five Lady Reddies in double figures in scoring.
The Golden Suns will return to action on Thursday, Jan. 13, at Christian Brothers University. Tip-off at Canale Arena in Memphis, Tenn., is set for 5 p.m.
An audio broadcast of the game will be available on KWKK 100.9 FM and at www.athletics.atu.edu.]]>