ECU men can't catch Muleriders

Feb. 10—MAGNOLIA, Ark. — Southern Arkansas placed four players in double figures on Thursday night and the Muleriders led wire-to-wire in a 73-64 Great American Conference victory over East Central inside the W.T. Watson Athletic Center.

The win gives SAU the regular season series over the Tigers and moves the Muleriders into a five-way tie for fifth place in the conference standings with seven games remaining before the madness of postseason basketball begins. ECU dropped to 9-12 overall and 5-10 in conference play.

Southern Arkansas (9-12, 7-8 GAC) controlled the paint (36-26 pts, 39-25 rebs.), outscored ECU in second-chance points (10-0) and clamped down around the perimeter in the second half (ECU shot 27%) to win its seventh league game of the season. Additionally, SAU shot 77% (17-for-22) from the stripe and 45% from the floor in the win.

Carel Ray Jr. scored 18 points with six rebounds, two assists and a steal in 26 minutes. Cedric Garrett, like Ray, nailed two three-point attempts to finish with 14 points, two rebounds and a steal. Nevi Tell put together 33 minutes of work that included a dozen points, three rebounds, two steals and four assists to no turnovers. In 34 minutes on the floor, Anthony Igiede delivered ten points and nine rebounds with three assists.

The Muleriders shot 63.6% from the floor in the first half to build a ten-point lead, but the Tigers hung around and used a key three with under five seconds remaining in the half to cap a 53% shooting effort from beyond the arc in the opening twenty minutes. SAU shot a dozen more free throws and made eight more than the Tigers who made just one trip to the stripe in the first half.

SAU grew its advantage to as much as 19 points in the second half, and the Tigers would only manage to cut the deficit to eight with just under two minutes to play. Ray nailed a turnaround jumper and Igiede hit a trifecta with a declining shot clock to hold off any potential movement by the Tigers late.

Malik Nash led the Tiger offense with 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field. Bryce Woolridge was next with 15 points, including a 4-of-6 effort from the 3-point stripe. He also had six rebounds.

Godsgift Ezedinma followed with 11 points and sank a trio of 3-pointers.

The ECU men's basketball team travels to Arkansas-Monticello at 3 p.m. today inside the Steelman Fieldhouse.

Note: Ada News sports editor Jeff Cali contributed to this report.