Southern Arkansas University defeated Ouachita Baptist University by a score of 72-70 on Saturday during Senior Day in Bill Vining Arena. The game, which presented an extremely physical, fast-paced battle, was close from start to finish.
In a game that was tied with less than two minutes remaining, Southern Arkansas’ CJ Elkins hit a 3-point basket to put SAU up 68-65 with 1:45 remaining in the contest. The Tigers were able to cut the lead down to 1, but Elkins responded once again as he hit another clutch 3-pointer to put the Muleriders up by 4 with only 19 seconds left in the game.
Free throw shooting played a massive role in the game. SAU (15-13, 11-11 GAC) shot 77 percent from the free-throw line compared to just 66 percent for Ouachita (12-15, 10-12 GAC). The teams combined for 47 fouls in the game. Even with the fouls coming in waves, the energy and hustle exhibited on both sides remained extremely high. Rebounds were at a premium in such a physical game. SAU outdueled Ouachita in that area, coming down with 38 rebounds compared to the Tigers’ 32.
Both sides struggled from 3-point range in a game where the teams tried to make their presence known inside. SAU and Ouachita both shot only 28 percent from distance. However, the Muleriders made a couple of big 3’s when it counted down the stretch.
The Tigers dealt with foul trouble throughout the game. Matt Stanley picked up his third foul with 9:45 remaining in the first half and Aitor Lopez-Breton fouled out of the game with 17:24 still on the clock, causing Ouachita to dive deep into its bench. The Tigers were able to get some valuable minutes from Grant Jones and Cross Bright.
Ouachita had four players who managed to reach double digits in the scoring column. Wesley Franklin had a team high 12 points for the Tigers, and Trey Harris was second on the team in scoring with 11 points and was a perfect 6-6 from the free-throw line.
CJ Elkins and KJ Collins led the way for Southern Arkansas. Elkins put up 16 points, with nine of his points coming in the last five minutes of the game, while KJ Collins cashed in 15 for the Muleriders.
Neither team had more than a two-possession lead at any point during the game. SAU’s largest lead was 6 and OBU’s largest lead was 5.
Both teams had their fair share of shooting issues. The Muleriders shot 42 percent for the game, while Ouachita hit on just 40 percent of its attempts from the floor.
Mahlon Martin and Jordan Corbitt pulled down each rebounds each. The rebounding performance for SAU consisted of more of a balanced effort. The Muleriders had seven players tally seven or more rebounds on the day.
SAU Guard Keeton Tennison led his team in assists with three. He struggled at times from the floor, but he was able to make a nice impact on the game with his passing. Jordan Corbitt had the most assists for Ouachita with four.
In a day where three outstanding senior players were honored, Aitor Lopez-Breton finished with four points, while Jontavis Willis put up seven points. Jordan Corbitt tallied six points, rebounds rebounds and four assists.
Ouachita will look to make a statement as they play Southern Nazarene in the first round of the GAC Championship on Thursday in Bartlesville, Okla. Southern Nazarene is the first seed in the tournament, while Ouachita is the eighth seed.
By Hunter Graves, guest writer