Will Paul scored a career-high 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys to an 80-73 Great American Conference men's basketball victory over the Southwestern Oklahoma State Bulldogs at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville on Thursday night.
Paul (photographed) was 7-of-11 from the field and 6-of-9 from the free throw line as Arkansas Tech (16-4 overall, 8-2 GAC) won its fifth consecutive game and maintained sole possession of second place in the GAC standings.
"Will was huge tonight, and we needed him," said Wonder Boys head coach Doug Karleskint. "He can create so many mismatches with his ability to step out on the floor and shoot the basketball."
Southwestern Oklahoma State (13-8, 4-7) scored the first seven points of the game. Johnie Davis' 3-pointer at the 16:23 mark of the first half broke the seal for the Wonder Boys and sparked an 8-0 run.
Mykel Cleveland's layup with 11:02 to go in the first half gave Arkansas Tech the lead for good at 17-15. It was the start of a 15-4 spurt that gave the Wonder Boys a 30-19 lead at the 7:03 mark of the first half.
Tech led by at least eight for the rest of the half, and Marshawn Arnold's tip-in with 22 seconds left sent the Wonder Boys to halftime with a 47-35 lead.
Three consecutive 3-pointers from Southwestern Oklahoma State to begin the second half sent notice that it would not be a cake walk for Arkansas Tech.
The Wonder Boys never surrendered the lead, but they were never able to pull back to a comfortable margin. Arkansas Tech made 8-of-8 at the free throw line over the final 1:10 to hang on for the victory.
"We have to be more focused," said Karleskint. "It feels like we have lost a little bit of our hunger. I hope they we aren't bored with success."
Matt Haney and Davis scored 14 points apiece for the Wonder Boys. Jared Williamson added 10 points and six rebounds.
Chase Elliott led all scorers by pouring in 25 points for Southwestern Oklahoma State.
The Wonder Boys will host East Central University for a 4 p.m. GAC game at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville on Saturday, Feb. 11.
Tickets will be available at the door. Admission will be $5 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens. Those with a valid Arkansas Tech identification card will be admitted free.
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