Rel Johnson scored a season-high 24 points to lead Henderson State University to an 84-80 men's basketball win over Arkansas Tech University at the Duke Wells Center in Arkadelphia on Saturday.
It was the fourth consecutive win for the Reddies, who improved to 7-1 at home this season and completed a regular season sweep of the Wonder Boys.
The first half saw six ties and eight lead changes, the last of which occurred when Freddy Lee made 2-of-2 free throws with 36.5 seconds remaining to send Arkansas Tech (4-12 overall, 2-8 Great American Conference) to the intermission with a 40-39 lead.
Henderson State (12-5, 7-4) moved in front 48-42 with a 9-2 run to begin the second half. Joshua Jones punctuated the spurt with a steal and slam dunk at the 17:48 mark.
Alex Brown countered for the Wonder Boys by erupting for 11 points over a span of 1:58 to give Tech a 60-56 lead with 12:30 remaining.
In the end, Henderson State's rebounding and transition offense were too much to withstand. The Reddies out-rebounded the Wonder Boys 45-31 and finished with a 19-4 margin in second-chance points. HSU outscored ATU 26-15 in fast break points.
The Reddies took the lead for good at 77-76 on a Rel Johnson layup with 4:37 to go.
The Henderson State advantage was 82-80 when Tech's Jacob Patterson made a steal with 50 seconds remaining. The Wonder Boys got two looks at a tying layup and one look at a go-ahead 3-pointer on the subsequent possession, but none of them went in.
Chris Parker made two free throws with 7.7 seconds left to set the final score in favor of the Reddies.
"I thought we battled like crazy," said Chad Kline, ATU head coach. "We found a rhythm with Alex (Brown) and Will (Adler) in the second half. The top two keys were rebounding and transition defense. It's extremely hard to overcome when you get dominated in those phases like that."
Brown finished with 22 points for the Wonder Boys. Ramses Sandifer added 18 points, R.J. Glasper netted 11 points and Adler tossed in 10 points.
Mike Fofana had 20 points and 13 rebounds for Henderson State.
The Wonder Boys will visit Southwestern Oklahoma State University for a 7:30 p.m. GAC contest at the Pioneer Cellular Events Center in Weatherford, Okla., on Thursday, Jan. 24.
Radio station KCJC 102.3 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com will provide live coverage.