Johnie Davis made two free throws with 14.6 seconds left to allow the nationally 21st-ranked Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys to survive and advance with a 54-53 win over the Southern Arkansas Muleriders in the first round of the Great American Conference Tournament at Bruin Fieldhouse in Bartlesville, Okla., on Thursday night.
With the win, top-seeded Arkansas Tech (22-5) advances to face Ouachita Baptist (16-11) in the semifinal round of the inaugural GAC Tournament at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The game can be heard on KWKK 100.9 FM and www.athletics.atu.edu.
"You have to give SAU a ton of credit," said Wonder Boys head coach Doug Karleskint. "I thought they had a really good game plan, and they did a great job of executing it. They dictated the tempo and controlled the whole game. We may look back in two weeks and say this was a good experience for us because you have to be able to play and win different types of games this time of year."
Southern Arkansas took a 53-52 lead on a 14-foot jump shot from the right wing by Teviin Morris with 48.4 seconds left. Arkansas Tech missed a potential go-ahead shot with 22.9 seconds left, but the rebound went out of bounds off the Muleriders and the Wonder Boys called timeout to set up a play.
The play was GAC player of the year Johnie Davis going to the basket, and he was fouled with 14.6 seconds left. He made both free throws to put the Wonder Boys in front, and two SAU shots in the final seconds were off target. The rebound after Juvon Demerson's missed tip-in try rolled out to mid-court and time expired.
Jared Williamson led the Wonder Boys with 14 points. He was 5-of-8 from the field. Williamson also grabbed five rebounds.
Davis added 13 points for Arkansas Tech, which defeated SAU for an 11th consecutive time. The contest was the Muleriders' first postseason game since 2002.
Will Paul and Nick Wayman added eight points apiece for the Wonder Boys. Wayman's total represents a new career high for the freshman from Valley Springs, who scored six consecutive points midway through the first half to spark a 10-0 Arkansas Tech run.
"It reminded me of the Ouachita game when Tyler Friedel came in and gave us a lift in the first half," said Karleskint. "I'm so excited about those three freshmen (Wayman, Friedel and Marshawn Arnold). Nick hit some tough shots tonight, and he was huge on the defensive end too."
Chris Davis scored a game-high 21 points for the Muleriders, who finished their season with an overall record of 13-16.
Ouachita Baptist made it to the semifinal round by defeating Southeastern Oklahoma State 85-65 in the final game of the day on Thursday.
Arkansas Tech and OBU split their regular season series. The Wonder Boys earned an 82-67 win over the Tigers in Russellville on Jan. 26, but Ouachita Baptist defeated Tech 80-76 in Arkadelphia on Feb. 23.
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