Harding sophomore Andraz Kavas dropped in 18 points as the Bisons' offensive execution down the stretch resulted in Midwestern State's first loss of the season -- 74-70 -- in the Arkansas Tech Thanksgiving Classic lid lifter Friday afternoon at Tucker Coliseum.
"Those guys were excited to play and the competed on both ends of the floor," MSU coach Nelson Haggerty said. "They went after balls, outfought us for rebounds and executed well down the stretch. That out-toughed us and completely outplayed us tonight."
Led by their 6-10 sophomore big man, HU utilized an outside-inside attack to connect at a 53.8 percent clip from the floor in the second half as five different players connected on treys including three from sophomore Tony Cochran, and two each by senior guard Weston Jameson and sophomore guard Jacob Gibson.
The Mustangs used strong play by senior guard Cam Adderley, who poured in 11 of his season-high 19 points in the opening half, with help off of the bench from Xavier Blackburn, Monzaigo Williams and DeVaughn Jones as the four combined for 27 of MSU's 34 first half points.
"Cam was on fire in the first half," Haggerty said. "He made some basket in the second half that really kept us in it."
MSU led by as many as seven points when Jones capped off a 9-2 run with a layup in transition to push the advantage to 25-18 with 6:52 to play in the first half.
But Jameson hit a trey at the 5:28 mark and Cochran followed with two more to cap an 11-0 Harding run to give the Bisons a 29-25 lead 3:41 before intermission.
The Mustangs would bounce back to a slim 34-32 halftime lead. The battle continued into the second half as the teams exchanged the lead seven times and tied nine times in the final stanza.
MSU seemed to grasp control of the momentum midway through the second period as Derrell Gibbs keyed a 7-0 run with a 3-pointers and a lay-in to give the Mustangs a 55-50 advantage.
Harding found the answer as Kavas converted a three-point play at the 8:08 mark and Gibson threw a trey from the top of the key to give the Bisons a 58-57 lead.
MSU senior forward Derek Kaster followed with a pair of free throws to give the Mustangs' their final advantage of the game at 59-58, but Jameson followed with a 3-pointer from the left wing to re-establish the lead for Harding.
Williams added 13 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals in 22 minutes off of the bench, while Blackburn added nine points off of the bench for the Mustangs.
Midwestern State battles host Arkansas Tech in the Thanksgiving Classic finale Saturday afternoon at Tucker Coliseum. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m.
Colin Staub scored twice and Ben Kucera added a goal and an assist, as the Wichita Falls Wildcats (15-8-3) topped the Corpus Christi IceRays at the Kay Yeager Coliseum on Friday, 5-2.
Kirk Van Arkel and Jake Townsend also scored for Wichita Falls, while Tyler Ledford contributed two assists. Kyle Bauman, Josh Haverstrom and Nick Farmer also notched assists in the contest, with David Zevnik making 24 saves to earn his eighth win of the season.
The Wildcats were the first team to get on the board, and did so in lightning-quick fashion. With barely a minute on the clock, Van Arkel gained the zone on the left-wing side and centered for Bauman. The shot from Bauman was saved, but Van Arkel was there to clean up the rebound for his second goal of the year, coming just 49 seconds into the contest.
Wichita Falls increased its advantage in the early stages of the second period. With the Wildcats shorthanded, Haverstrom played the puck back to Townsend at the blue line. Townsend then unleashed a slap shot that deflected off a Corpus Christi player in front of the net and past Ben Myers to make it 2-0. It was Townsend's third goal of the season, and the Wildcats' sixth shorthanded goal of the year, giving them the league lead in that category.
The IceRays responded a few minutes later, capitalizing on a defensive mistake by the Wildcats. An errant stickhandle sent the puck skittering into the low slot where Nick Monfils stepped into a shot. Zevnik made the initial save, but could not keep the puck from squirting over the line to make it 2-1 at the 5:49 mark.
The Wildcats restored their two-goal advantage late in the middle frame however. After picking up the puck on the breakout, Kucera skated the length of the ice with Farmer to his right and sniped the top corner for his sixth tally of the year.
Corpus Christi scored early in the third period to put Wichita Falls under pressure, as Martin Hojbjerg finished off a two-on-one for his eighth goal of the season, but the Wildcats pulled away thanks to a pair of power-play goals by Staub.
Staub potted his first goal of the game at the 11:14 mark of the third period after some good puck movement by the Cats. A cross-ice pass from the right point to the left-wing half-wall opened up a passing lane for Ledford to feed to Kucera in the high slot. The Leawood, Kan.-native directed the disc towards the front of the net, where Staub was waiting to slam it home to make it 4-2.
With the Wildcats on a major power play, Staub snagged his second of the contest, rushing down the left-wing wall before cutting in front and backhanding a shot on Myers. The puck appeared to be covered but trickled over the line to give Wichita Falls a 5-2 lead, and Staub his eighth goal of the season. Vosejpka and Ledford were credited with the assists on the goal, which came at 17:34 of the third.
The Wildcats and IceRays will face off on Saturday at the Kay Yeager Coliseum, with puck drop slated for 7:05 p.m. Fans that cannot make it to the game may tune in via FASTHockey.com. Remember, Saturday is "Sticks with Styx" night, an 80's-themed throwback night, featuring contests and ticket giveaways. For more information regarding tomorrow's game, call the Wildcats office at (940) 716-5587.
Wichita Falls - Kirk Van Arkel (Kyle Bauman) 0:49
Wichita Falls - Jake Townsend (shorthanded) (extra attacker) (Josh Haverstrom) 2:56
Corpus Christi - Nick Monfils (unassisted) 5:49
Wichita Falls - Ben Kucera (Will Vosejpka, Nick Farmer) 16:14
Corpus Christi - Martin Hojbjerg (unassisted) 0:40
Wichita Falls - Colin Staub (power play) (Ben Kucera, Tyler Ledford) 11:14
Wichita Falls - Colin Staub (power play) (Will Vosejpka, Tyler Ledford) 17:34