Boll Weevils split two on long road trip
Sometime soon, University of Arkansas at Monticello head men’s basketball coach Kyle Tolin said, he hopes to see his Boll Weevils exhibit the panache that last year’s record-breaking squad managed. With all the players except onae returning, it’s not a far-fetched notion.
Unfortunately for UAM, the 2017-18 Weevils just haven’t been able to get over the proverbial hump. Last week, the Kelly Green and White slipped past Southeastern Oklahoma State University 82-73 on Thursday in Weatherford, Okla. but then fell 83-78 to Northwestern Oklahoma State University on Saturday in Alva, Okla.
The split left UAM at 8-4 on the season but just 3-3 in the Great American Conference. It’s still a long time until the GAC Championship Tournament in early March but the Weevils can’t afford to lose many more league games and still equal or better the regular-season co-championship they were able to muster a year ago.
“We had some good minutes,” Tolin said of both games on UAM’s longest road trip of the season. “We really played pretty well in the first half vs Southwestern. Anytime you win a college basketball game on the road it’s a good win. I thoughtx our zone offense was good in this game.
“And we played about 34 solid minutes (against Northwestern). We just aren’t there yet. We need to get better and think we are close, but aren’t there yet. We aren’t quite good enough to go win two on the road against good teams yet.”
UAM will conclude a year-opening three-game road trip in Arkadelphia at 7:30 p.m. Thursday when the Weevils face Ouachita Baptist University. The first home game of 2018 will be two days later as Ouachita’s U.S. Highway 67 Arkadelphia neighbor, Henderson State University, visits Steelman Field House at 4 p.m. Saturday.
As it stands now, the Weevils are tied for sixth in the GAC with Oklahoma Baptist University. Two wins this week, though, would vault UAM into second place (in terms of wins) behind surprising Southern Nazarene University, which has yet to drop a league contest.
That’s not out of the realm of possibility, with Ouachita currently 2-4 in the GAC and 5-7 overall while Henderson has won just one conference game and is 6-6 on the season. Saturday will also mark former Monticello three-time All-State performer D.J. Franklin’s second appearance at Steelman Field House as a Reddie.
Last Thursday, seniors Derylton Hill, Cobe Goosby, Karim Mawuenyega and Tyrin Jones all scored in double figures as UAM bested Southwestern. Hill led the Weevils with 22 points, Jones needed 21, and Mawuenyega and Jones 16 each to help the Weevils control the game throughout—although the Bulldogs got to within three points late in the second half.
Mawuenyega and Hill paced a 12-2 run to open the game and UAM led 44-28 at intermission. Mawuenyega’s made three-point shot and free throws from Goosby, Mawuenyega and junior Jamil Maddred clinched the win for the visitors.
Saturday, Hill scored 26 points, Jones 19, Mawuenyega 11 and Maddred 10 for UAM but it was not enough. In a back-and-fourth contest, Northwestern led when it counted most—at the final buzzer.
The Weevils were in control early after a Hill layup gave UAM the 10-6 advantage early in the first half, and he continued to be a source of offense by knocking down a three-pointer to put the visitors ahead by eight points with seven minutes remaining before intermission. Northwestern, however, surged from there in the end of the first half, taking a four-point advantage into the locker room.
After UAM regained the lead early in the second half, the Rangers hit the decisive basket with just more than five minutes remaining—and never trailed again.