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Tech Going to NCAA Sweet 16 for 1st Time

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Not again. That's all that Arkansas Tech head coach Doug Karleskint could think when the final shot went in the air.

He had lost an NCAA Division II Tournament game at the buzzer to Tarleton State when he was an assistant coach at Northwest Missouri State. He had seen his Wonder Boys lose in overtime in the NCAA Division II Tournament regional semifinals one year ago.

This time Tarleton State's last-second shot was no good. This time was different, and Arkansas Tech is going to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division II Tournament in men's basketball for the first time in school history.

The nationally 15th-ranked Wonder Boys defeated the Tarleton State Texans 64-63 in overtime in the NCAA Division II Tournament South Central Regional semifinals at D.L. Ligon Coliseum in Wichita Falls, Texas, on Sunday night.

Tarleton State's Coleman Furst attempted a 3-pointer from the left corner as time expired in overtime. It was no good, and time ran out before the Texans could try to tip it in at the buzzer like they did to knock Karleskint and Northwest Missouri State out of the NCAA Tournament in 2006.

For Arkansas Tech, the win ended three years of frustration in the NCAA Division II Tournament regional semifinals. The Wonder Boys lost at that stage to Florida Southern in overtime in 2009, to Valdosta State in 2010 and to Alabama-Huntsville in overtime in 2011.

The fourth time was the charm, and the Wonder Boys will play for the NCAA Division II South Central Region championship at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Arkansas Tech will face regional host Midwestern State (28-3) for the right to advance to the NCAA Elite Eight. The nationally fifth-ranked Mustangs defeated Washburn University 72-63 in Sunday's other regional semifinal at Ligon Coliseum.

"It was the same type scenario," said Karleskint, reflecting back on the loss he suffered to Tarleton State six years ago. "We had an eight-point lead and then made a couple of bad passes. I take the blame for what happened at the end of regulation tonight. We took the air out of the ball too early. We should have kept attacking. When that last shot went up, all I could think about was that Tarleton State game when I was at Northwest Missouri. I thought 'not again.' Luckily, it didn't go in this time."

Arkansas Tech led 52-44 with 3:31 left in the second half, but the Texans closed regulation with a 12-4 run to force the extra period. Shedrick Haynes' running 7-footer from the right baseline with 3.6 seconds left sent the game to overtime tied at 56-56.

Tech's Johnie Davis scored the first two points of the extra five minutes by driving to the front of the rim for a layup with 4:20 left. Haynes answered with a 3-pointer to give Tarleton State its first lead since late in the first half. It was 59-58 Tarleton with 3:12 to go in overtime.

It would be the Texans' final lead of the night. Will Paul recorded a tip-in at the 2:56 mark and Mykel Cleveland made a layup with 2:20 left to put the Wonder Boys in front 62-59.

Fabian Wilson's tip-in with 13.4 seconds remaining cut Tech's advantage to 62-61, but Cleveland answered with two free throws to make it 64-61.

Arkansas Tech fouled the Texans with 7.9 seconds left rather than giving them a chance to tie the score with a 3-pointer. Haynes made both free throws to pull Tarleton State within 64-63.

Davis left the door open by missing a pair of free tosses with 6.3 seconds to go, but Furst's trey at the buzzer was no good and the Wonder Boys' celebration commenced.

"We knew going into the day that two good teams would be going home," said Karleskint. "We knew it would be a hostile environment with the crowd that Tarleton would bring, but our guys thrive on playing on the road. I like where our team is at. This is the most healthy we've been all year, and our guys are really buying into our defensive philosophy. I'm so proud of the defensive effort we gave tonight."

Arkansas Tech held Tarleton State to 34 percent (20-of-59) shooting from the field. The Texans came in shooting 47 percent from the field this season.

Paul scored a team-high 19 points for the Wonder Boys. He was 8-of-15 from the floor, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range. Paul also grabbed seven rebounds.

Davis added 15 points, 13 of which came in the second half and overtime. Tech's Jared Williamson had 11 points and six rebounds. Cleveland finished with eight points and he matched the career high in rebounding he set one day earlier with 10.

Nick Wayman notched eight points and seven rebounds for the Wonder Boys to match his career high in both categories.

Haynes scored a game-high 22 points for the Texans, who saw their season come to an end with an overall record of 27-6. Chris Harrell scored 14 points, while Wilson had 13 points and 16 rebounds.