Erasing a 10-point halftime deficit with aggressive play in the second half, the Northeastern A&M Golden Norsemen defeated the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Lions 72-65 Monday night in the NEO Fieldhouse.
While extending their current winning streak to four games and snapping a five-game losing streak to the Lions, coach Dustin Grover's Norsemen stand 15-14 on the season.
The Golden Norse lead the Eastern Division of the Bi-State Athletic Conference with a 5-2 mark.
The last win by the Golden Norsemen over the Lions was a 79-73 decision in Miami during the 2003-04 season.
Coach Josh Newman's Lions slip to 19-10 on the season and 3-4 in the Bi-State East.
Remaining at home on Thursday for sophomore night, the Golden Norsemen conclude the regular season by hosting the Connors State Cowboys.
The Norse earned a 61-57 victory over the Cowboys on Feb. 12 in Warner.
“During the first half against Fort Smith, we just stood around and did nothing,” Grover said. “We looked more like a junior high team that a college team.
“We did a poor job of executing what we had drawn up,” Grover said. “They did a great job of switching up defenses and creating turnovers.”
Four points by Jacolby Hardiman, along with baskets by Kechan Myers, Paul Campbell, Chris Echols and Aramie Brooks, propelled the Lions to a 12-2 lead in the first six minutes of the opening half.
UAFS kept up the offensive production as Brooks scored five points and Echols, Hardiman, Campbell and Myers added field goals as the Lions roared to a 25-12 cushion with 7:47 until halftime.
A 3-point field goal by Dominique Gaines, along with a putback by Tulio Cobos, two free throws by Tremaine Luellen and one by John Boyd, rallied NEO to a 25-20 deficit with 4:30 before intermission.
The Lions responded with a 3-pointer by Zane Meehl, along with layups by Myers and Charles Baker, to carry a 32-22 lead to the locker room at halftime.
“We came out and simply got aggressive in every phase of our game in the second half,” Grover said. “We got more shots than they did and we got to the free throw line more than they did.”
Trailing 45 to 34 in the first six minutes of the second half, the Golden Norse began to whittle away at the deficit with a 3-pointer by Fernando Filho and a layup by Boyd.
Consecutive field goals by Boyd, Cobos and Gaines rallied NEO to a 47-45 deficit with 11:15 left in the game.
Two 3-pointers by Justin Bailey, along with four points by Brooks and a slam dunk by Meehl, gave the Lions a 59-52 cushion with 5:31 showing on the clock.
Boyd scored on two break-away layups and Gaines and Reggie Mathis sank two free throws each while Luellen added one free throw for the Norse to create a 61-61 tie with 2:40 remaining in the game.
Sinking 9 of 10 at the free throw line in the final two minutes, the Golden Norsemen sealed the Lions' fate.
Four free throws each by Boyd and Gaines along with a field goal and free throw by Mathis allowed NEO to outscore the Lions 11-4 down the stretch.
Gaines scored a game-high 18 points to lead the Norsemen along with 15 from Boyd, 14 from Cobos and 13 from Mathis.
The Golden Norsemen connected on 23 of 59 (39 percent) from the field, including 4 of 13 from 3-point range. NEO hit 22 of 29 (76 percent) at the free throw line.
Brooks paced the Lions with 13 points while Hardiman scored 12 and Myers added 11.
UAFS sank 28 of 65 (43 percent) from the field, including 4 of 19 from the 3-point area, and 5 of 11 (46 percent) at the line.
Echols pulled down 10 rebounds to give the Lions a 44 to 38 advantage on the boards. Boyd led NEO with 12 rebounds.
Northeastern A&M 72,
Arkansas-Fort Smith 65
UAFS - Brooks 6-11 1-4 13, Hardiman 6-7 0-2 12, Myers 5-13 0-0 11, Echols 3-7 2-3 8, Bailey 2-6 0-0 6, Baker 3-7 0-0 6, Campbell 2-4 2-2 6, Meehl 1-5 0-0 3, Crawford 0-0 0-0 0, Spencer 0-3 0-0 0, Longar 0-0 0-0 0, Ferguson 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 28-65 5-11 65.
Northeastern A&M - Gaines 4-12 8-8 18, Boyd 5-16 5-8 15, Cobos 7-14 0-2 14, Mathis 3-8 6-7 13, Luellen 2-7 3-4 7, Filho 1-3 0-0 3, Parra 1-3 0-0 2, Morgan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-59 22-29 72.
Halftime - UAFS 32, NEO 22. 3-point goals - UAFS 4-19 (Bailey 2-6, Meehl 1-5, Myers 1-3, Baker 0-4, Spencer 0-1), NEO 4-13 (Gaines 2-6, Filho 1-3, Mathis 1-2, Boyd 0-1, Luellen 0-1). Total fouls - UAFS 29, NEO 14. Rebounds - UAFS 44 (Echols 10), NEO 38 (Boyd 12). Assists - UAFS 7 (Myers 2, Campbell 2), NEO 15 (Gaines 6). Steals - UAFS 5 (Myers 2), NEO 6 (Luellen 2, Cobos 2). Blocked shots - UAFS 2 (Campbell, Ferguson), NEO 4 (Boyd 2). Turnovers - UAFS 25, NEO 15. Fouled out - Myers, Brooks.