TAHLEQUAH – Bryton Hobbs scored a game-high 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as No. 17 Northeastern State beat No. 25 Harding 72-66 Saturday night before 1,757 fans in the grand opening of the NSU Event Center
NSU (3-0) was in control most of the first half, reaching a double-digit lead at 22-12 on Marcus Shepard’s putback of a Hobbs miss at the 8:58 mark. They matched it at 34-24 on a Hobbs layup on a break with :26 until halftime, giving him 10 points at the break.
Another Hobbs’ drive to the basket gave the RiverHawks their third 10-point lead at 44-34. But the Bison (1-1) would battle back, tying the score at the 5:43 mark on Nick Mason’s 3-pointer.
Then it became a game at the free-throw line for NSU. Landon Demasters hit a pair with 5:12 remaining to put the RiverHawks in front to stay. Hobbs was 9-of-10 down the stretch, including 6-of-6 in the final minute.
“I told the kids before the game that this was as close to an NCAA tournament atmosphere as you’ll find in November and I think that was true,” said RiverHawks coach Larry Gipson. “I don’t think it was a game marrred by a lot of blatant mistakes by either team. It was a pretty well-played game.”
NSU outshot Harding hitting 23 of 51 shots from the field fo ra 45.1 percent clip to 20-of-58 from the field for 34.5 percent. The RiverHawks had a 13-0 advantage in points off turnovers and a 14-4 edge on second-chance points. Harding had the edge in rebounds 38-35 with Johnson and Gibson each with nine.
Also for NSU, Demasters and Dalen Qualls each had 12.
Harding had five players in double figures, led by Hayden Johnson’s 13. Tony Cochran, Weston Jameson and Jacob Gibson each had 11 and Andraz Kavas 10.
Drury 69, NSU 67, 2 OT
Kate Bellamy’s jumper with seconds remaining from the right wing was blocked and rebounded by Drury’s Sanayika Sheilds and Drury held on in a game that was close throughout.
Che-Ron Lewis led the young RiverHawks (0-4) and all scorers with 19 points while Chelsey Beathard had 15, Fontana Tate 11 and Melissa Jones 10. Three players finished in double figures for Drury (3-0, with Paige Wilson and Annie Armstrong each having 14 points.
Armstrong’s free throws with 5.5 left in regulation tied the game at 55. NSU chose to forego a timeout and push the ball up court but couldn’t get it past midcourt as the buzzer sounded.
It was 65-all after the first overtime and Drury owned a 4-2 edge in the second extra session.
“Our philosophy is geared toward going after them and pushing the ball. There’s different ways of approaching that. We call timeout, they get a chance to make adjustments too,” said NSU coach Randy Gipson. “Maybe next time we do it different when we’re a little more veteran team than what we are now and honestly, we haven’t worked on what to do in that situation yet. We’re still just going about working on the basic things.”