Weevils upset by rival after two home victories
This is probably not the way University of Arkansas at Monticello head men’s basketball coach Kyle Tolin envisioned his Boll Weevils finishing the first half of the 2017-18 Great American Conference season. After all, UAM went into the winter as the defending co-champions of the regular season and were the runaway preseason pick to win the league this year.
Stuff happens, though.
After a surprising 69-68 upset loss to rival Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia Tuesday night, UAM sits at 6-5 in league play. The loss followed wins at home over both Arkansas Tech University (94-72 last Thursday) and Harding University (90-62 Saturday).
Even with the loss to the Muleriders, the Boll Weevils are in good position to return to Bartlesville, Okla, for the GAC hampionship Tournament, though. UAM is currently tied fifth place with SAU; the top eight teams will fight for the conference’s beth in the NCAA Tournament on March 1-4.
The senior-laden Weevils (all but one player returned from a record-breaking 23-7 season in 2016-17) had four starters coming back, but Tolin said he is yet to find the chemistry that existed last winter.
One of those upperclassmen, Derylton Hill, led UAM against SAU with his fourth double-double of the season. Hill scored 23 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Classmates Cobe Goosby and Tyrin Jones also reached double figures at Magnolia; Goosby added 14 points and Jones chipped in with 12.
A 16-0 UAM run reversed a 5-1 start by the Muleriders, who won their sixth consecutive game. The Weevils led 36-33 at the half but were unable to capitalize on that momentum after intermission.
The Weevils struggled from the charity stripe in this second half, shooting only 8-for-17 from the line; UAM was 16-for-29 in the game. SAU had the upper hand in the second half, outscoring its visitors by just enough points to claim victory.
Thursday at Steelman Field House, both Hill and Goosby had double-doubles for the second straight game, but neither led the Weevils in scoring.
That honor went to Jones, who poured in 29 points. Hill (24 points, 11 rebounds), Goosby (21 points, 10 assists) and senior Karim Mawuenyega (10 points) also reached double figures.
The Wonder Boys began the contest with a fast-break layup but after a made jumper from Jones, the Weevils would not trail in this game for the remainder of the game. Generating multiple runs throughout the first half, UAM led 44-34 at intermission, capped by a Keelin Jackson made three-point shot with less than a minute remaining.
The hosts continued their momentum after halftime, leading by double digits throughout. The biggest UAM lead was 24 points. UAM tied a season-high in assists with 24, the third time the Weevils have recorded that amount.
This was the fifth occurrence where UAM 90 or more points in a game, as well—the Weevils are 5-0 in those contests.
Saturday, Hill scored a career-best 32 points and Mawuenyega posted a double-double (16 points, 10 assists) as the Weevils had their way with the Bisons.
Other UAM players in double figures were Jones (18), Mawuenyega (16) and Jackson (11).
UAM broke open a tight game fire and jumped out to a double-digit lead after a layup from Troy Thomas staked the Weevils to a 26-16 lead. The hosts closed out the half with a Hill layup with seven seconds on the clock and led 43-33 at intermission.
In the second half, UAM began to dominate the game. A Mawuenyega layup with just more than 17 minutes remaining gave the Weevils a lead they would hold for the remainder of the half.
An alley-oop dunk by Thomas capped off the game for UAM, pushing the advantage to 26 points. The Weevils shot 54 percent from the floor and forced the Bisons into 23 turnovers.
The second half of the conference season starts with No. 16 Southern Nazarene University at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, followed by Oklahoma Baptist University at 3 p.m. Saturday. Both games are at Steelman Field House.