MONTICELLO – Southern Arkansas withstood a second half surge against Arkansas-Monticello on Monday for a pivotal 69-62 Great American Conference Eastern Division win.
The win for the Muleriders evens the division standings as both SAU and UAM now sit at 10-4 in GAC play with two games to play in the 2021 regular season.
The Muleriders (11-4, 10-4 GAC) used five double-figure scorers on a collectively hot 51% clip (26-of-51) from the floor, including a 59.1% (13-of-22) success rate in the second half, to snap the Weevils four-game winning streak. Southern Arkansas connected on 40% of its three-point attempts with the three second half makes all coming at critical junctures.
Junior guard Victor Ihrihri connected on a trifecta following an assist from sophomore guard Dodge Brown at the 13:01 mark which ended a 20-7 run by the Weevils to start the second half. That triple try sparked a 9-2 run for the Muleriders which was highlighted by another successful make from range by Ihrihri that put Southern Arkansas up 50-49 with 9:11 to play.
The lead shifted for the next seven minutes of play with neither bench leading by more than two points during that time. After senior guard Aaron Lucas dished off to junior Jalen Brooks with 2:17 remaining to give Southern Arkansas a 60-58 lead, junior guard Blake Rogers hit what proved to the dagger three on an assist from classmate Tyler Garrett to push the Muleriders out front 63-58 with two minutes to play.
Lucas cushioned the advantage by converting an old fashioned three-point play and in the final 30 seconds, Brown tossed it out front to senior forward Devante Brooks who slammed in the final two points on a nice fast break dunk.
Southern Arkansas led by four points at the intermission after the Weevils put together an 11-6 run to close out the half and in the process cut down the Muleriders' largest lead of the opening 20 minutes which stood at nine points with 5:15 to play.
Unlike the teams' first meeting in Monticello on January 25, the Muleriders did not allow their arch rival to get off to a fast start as UAM's largest lead of the first half was just three points and came less than two minutes from the jump.
D. Brooks recorded the 27th double-double of his career with 13 points and 11 rebounds. He added three blocks and two steals in a team-high 35 minutes. Lucas scored a game-high 18 points with four assists, two rebounds and a steal. Ihrihri dropped a dozen in the scoring column, while J. Brooks and Rogers each scored 10. Garrett and Brown combined for just four points but together grabbed 11 total rebounds and dealt six assists to just two turnovers.
Southern Arkansas closes out the regular season at home with games against Arkansas Tech at 7 p.m. on Thursday night and against Harding at 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
Since the start of the 2018-19 season, the Muleriders own a 28-5 mark at home inside the W.T. Watson Center.