Arkansas Tech tops SW Okla. State
Williamson scores 16 points to propel the Wonder Boys
BARTLESVILLE, Okla. – Arkansas Tech posted a 69-58 win against Southwestern Oklahoma State and captured the inaugural Great American championship.
With the win, Tech improves to 24-5 on the season and will now await it spot in the NCAA tournament.
Tech, who took home the inaugural GAC regular season men’s title by posting a 13-3 league record, made sure it claimed the postseason title thanks to a 21-7 run that turned a 14-8 deficit into a 29-21 halftime lead that Tech would never relinquish.
“I thought we were able to take Southwestern Oklahoma State out of their offense for much of the game,” Wonder Boys Head Coach Doug Karleskint said. “They’ve been making a living pounding the ball inside, but our guards did a good job of digging down and using their quick hands to get stops. We got to the loose balls today and did the dirty work.”
Karleskint said he was proud of his team team’s effort today, especially coming out flat to start the game.
“After our slow start, I thought we played really well the rest of the game and I thought our defense was tremendous and really was the difference in the game,” Karleskint said.
Tech’s defense held the Bulldogs to 58 points and 32 percent shooting from the field and 18 percent (3-for-17) from the 3-point line. SWOSU, who finished the season with a 17-12 record, didn’t hit its first 3-pointer until 6:29 left in the game.
“There is a saying we have, ‘Do What We Do’, and I thought that after our slow start, we settled down and played like we’re supposed to play the rest of the game,” said Jared Williamson. Williamson was named the tournament’s MVP, he averaged 14.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in Tech’s three tournament games, scored 16 points in Sunday’s final.
In the first half, the Bulldogs, who were the No. 7 seed in the tournament, jumped out to a 10-2 lead, seven minutes into game. The Wonder Boys, though, chipped away at that lead as they pulled within 14-10 following a lay-up by junior center Will Paul.
From that point, Tech’s defense stiffened up as they held the Bulldogs without a field goal for 10 minutes and they used back-to-back 3-pointers from senior guard Mykel Cleveland to take a 20-15 lead with 5:50 left in the half. Cleveland finished with 12 points, six rebounds and four assists in the game.
The Wonder Boys took command of the game in the opening four-plus minutes of the second half as senior guard Johnie Davis hit three and Williamson hit a fourth 3-pointer to push Tech’s lead to 41-23 with 15:29 remaining.
Davis, who didn’t score in the first half, led the way for Tech as he scored 17 points en route to earning All-Tournament Team honors.
The Bulldogs, though, wouldn’t go away as they used a 9-2 run to pull within 62-56 following a lay-up by Thomas Davis with 1:40 left in the game. Tech, though, would hold SWOSU without a field goal the remainder of the game and connect on 7-of-8 free throws in the final 65 seconds to seal the championship.
“What a great accomplishment for our team. To win the first-ever GAC Championship, this is something we’ll always remember,” Karleskint added. “I’m really proud of our guys.”
In addition to Davis, Williamson and Cleveland, Paul scored 16 points and pulled down eight rebounds in the win.
Chase Elliott, who was named the all-tournament team, led the way for the Bulldogs with 17 points, while Davis added 12 points. Zack Howe, who hit all three of SWOSU’s 3-pointers in the game, tallied 11 points and Ryan Donahoe had 10 points.
Other members of the all-tournament team included Arkansas-Monticello senior guard L.A. Farmer, Ouachita Baptist junior guard Nigel Ramsey, SW Oklahoma junior guard Dominick Cornelius, Ouachita Baptist junior forward Michael Morris and Harding junior forward Zach Roddenberry.
Tech finished the game shooting 50 percent from the field and 33 percent from the 3-point line and held a 35-29 edge on the glass. The Wonder Boys committed 19 turnovers that led to 21 points for the Bulldogs, while Tech’s bench outscored SWOSU, 18-2.