Harding punches NCAA tourney ticket
Bisons top Arkansas Tech to win Gulf South Conference
SOUTHAVEN, Miss. -- After Harding's incredible shooting in the Gulf South Conference Tournament semifinal victory against Alabama-Huntsville on Saturday, no one was sure if the Bisons would have anything left for Sunday's championship against Arkansas Tech.
Harding shot even better in defeating Arkansas Tech 80-61 at the DeSoto Civic Center and earned its first-ever Gulf South Conference Tournament Championship. It was Harding's first postseason tournament championship since winning the NAIA District 17 Regional Tournament in 1987.
Four Harding players scored in double figures, with senior Kevin Brown leading the way with 19 points. Sam Brown had 17 points and Stephen Blake added 10. All three were on the All-Tournament team with Blake earning Tournament Most Valuable Player honors.
Brown missed much of the first half in foul trouble, but freshman Hayden Johnson came in and scored 11 points and had a team-high nine rebounds in his absence.
Harding shot over 50 percent in both halves and finished at 58 percent. The Bisons made 14 three-pointers against Alabama-Huntsville, and continued to shoot it well from the outside by making 8-of-15 in the championship.
Harding led 39-26 at halftime and scored the first four points of the second half. Arkansas Tech (24-5) trimmed the lead to 15 points with 10:41 left, but Harding went on an 8-0 run and led by at least 18 points the rest of the way.
By winning the conference tournament championship, Harding earns an automatic bid into the NCAA Division II National Tournament. The field of 64 will be announced at 9 p.m. on NCAA.com. It will be Harding's third trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Bisons also qualified in 2003 and 2008.
Harding limited Arkansas Tech to only 35 percent shooting and outscored the Wonder Boys 40-24 in the paint.