From Staff reports
SEARCY, Ark. — Northeastern State controlled much of the game against Harding on Thursday night, but Harding scored five of the final eight points to claim a 65-63 win at Rhodes Field House.
With NSU clinging to a 63-62 lead with 1:30 to play, Harding’s Zach Roddenberry made a layup to give Harding a one-point lead for good with 59 seconds to play. Weston Jameson added a free throw for Harding with 0:26 to play.
On NSU’s final possession, Bryton Hobbs turned the ball over, dashing any hopes of a comeback for the RiverHawks.
Hayden Johnson led Harding with a career-high 30 points on 10 of 12 shooting, as the Bisons remained unbeaten and improved to 5-0 in front of 1,062.
NSU, led by Ethan Anderson’s 14 points, dropped its first game of the year and fell to 5-1.
“I think we played well in many facets of the game, but I think our defense needs to tighten up,” NSU coach Larry Gipson said. “We need to understand that we’re going to have to start winning games with good defense.”
Harding preyed on NSU’s defense, shooting 49 percent (24 of 49) from the field and 36 percent (9 of 25) from 3-point range. In the second half, the Bisons were 13 of 23 from the floor and 6 of 13 from long range.
Roddenberry was the only other Harding player to score in double figures with 12 points. He also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.
NSU’s only other player to score in double figures was Jermaine Bransford, who had 12 points on 6 of 16 shooting.
The RiverHawks, who shot 42.9 percent from the field in the first half, finished the game 23 of 61 (37.7 percent) from the floor.
The RiverHawks were able to avoid turnovers until crunch time arrived late in the second half. In the final 3:07, Hobbs handed the ball over three times, upping NSU’s turnover on the night to five.
“We didn’t commit a lot of turnovers late in the game, but we committed three down the stretch,” Gipson said. “...Overall, our execution needs to improve.”
Up next for NSU is its MIAA opener at home against Emporia State on Wednesday.
“This is a good game for us,” Gipson said of playing Harding, “because it really simulates what we’re going to face in the MIAA when we travel.”