Trailing by 23 points at nationally 16th-ranked University of Arkansas-Monticello with 16 minutes remaining on Saturday, Arkansas Tech University head men's basketball coach Chad Kline decided it was time to try something different.
The Wonder Boys (11-4 overall, 7-4 Great American Conference) switched from man-to-man to zone defense and shot 64 percent from the field in the second half to rally for a 91-90 win over the previously undefeated Boll Weevils at Steelman Field House in Monticello.
"We were going to do it in the first half," said Kline about the defensive switch, "but this was (assistant coach Prince Johnson's) scout and he said every team that had gone zone against (UAM) in the first half gave them time to adjust at halftime, and then they diced it up in the second half. So we tried to hold the water as long as we could and not give them as much time to adjust. Defense is defense. If you stay in front of them and prevent layups, good things will happen."
UA-Monticello (14-1, 10-1) led 55-39 at halftime and 64-41 with 16:04 remaining. It was still a 20-point spread until Tech's Trevin Woods made a 3-pointer at the 13:05 mark. It turned out to be the beginning of a 21-6 run that pulled the Wonder Boys within 75-70 with 7:13 left when Alex Brown capped the spurt with a trey of his own.
Arkansas Tech took its first lead of the game at 80-79 on a Justin Graham layup with 4:02 left.
In the end, it came down to free throw shooting.
With the score tied 89-89, Tech's Bennie Lufile made two free throws in the final 18.9 seconds to give the Wonder Boys a 91-89 lead. The Boll Weevils had a chance to tie it with 0.7 seconds left, but Tyrin Jones missed his second free throw after making his first and Tech held on for its eighth win in its last 10 games.
Brown, Graham and Freddy Lee had 19 points apiece for the Wonder Boys. Woods added 10 points.
UAM's Derylton Hill led all scorers with 24 points.
The Wonder Boys will play at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, and at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28.
Radio station KCJC 102.3 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com will have live coverage from both games.