The East Central University men's basketball team will head out to see if they can repeat what they accomplished last year and win the unwinnable road trip against Harding and Arkansas Tech. The Tigers were the first to do so last season and will have their first test at Harding, Thursday, Jan. 13 at 7:30 p.m. in Rhodes Fieldhouse.
ECU's radio home for Tigers basketball in 2012-13 is Ada's KXFC, 105.5, FM 'The X-Factor'. Kenny Morrison returns to broadcast the games for his 18th season. Morrison, a 1987 ECU graduate, spent two seasons doing color prior to taking over the play-by-play duties during the 1997-98 season.
Fans who can't be at the game can find links to live stats, live video (if available) and the KXFC radio broadcast on ECUTigers.com. Go to the men's basketball schedule page. Fans can listen to the radio broadcast online or through the FREE KXFC App available in ITunes, Google Stores where apps are sold and www.kxfcradio.com.
The Bisons are 5-8 overall and 3-4 in the Great American Conference after dropping their last three games, all on the road. However, Harding is 5-1 this season when playing at home. The Bisons have been competitive in their games and despite a losing record have a +2.2 scoring and +0.2 rebounding margin for the year. They are also out-shooting the competition .464 to .435 from the floor and .377 to .349 from beyond the arc. Three-point shots are key for Harding, as they average 10.2 per game and allow 8.2.
The Bisons have four players in double digits in the point's column, with the next player adding just 6.1 points per game. Andraz Kavas is the clear team leader with 18.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, while shooting .523 from the field, .417 from beyond the arc and adding 23 assists and 12 blocks. Jonathan McGee adds 12.8 points and 4.1 boards per game, Jacob Gibson has tallied 12.7 points per outing and Blake McNair is netting 11.2 points per contest.
Against the Bisons
In 2013-14 the Tigers met Harding three times, winning the regular-season appearances and then falling in the first round of the GAC Tournament. Both teams had strong shooting performances in the series, with ECU hitting .516 of their shots and the Bisons .435.
Seniors Henry Pwono and Brandon Lucas led the Tigers in the series, with 13.3 points per game each. Pwono added 7.7 rebounds per game and a .696 (16-of-23) shooting percentage. Lucas contributed 4.0 boards per contest, a .517 overall shooting percentage, a .444 mark from three-point range and four assists.
Jacob Gibson and Will Francis are the key returners for Harding. Gibson tallied 14.0 points and 3.3 boards per game, while Francis added 12.7 points.
With the 2-1 record a season ago, the Tigers were able to take a slight 9-8 advantage in the all-time series, which dates back to the 1994-95 season. ECU has won just two of the seven meetings against the Bisons in Searcy, breaking a streak of four-straight losses a season ago.
Henry Making the Most of Freebies
Senior Henry Pwono had a strong showing for the Tigers against Ouachita Baptist, with 31 points and 19 of those coming at the charity stripe. The Pittsburg, Pa., native set a school record for the most free throws made in a single game (19) and tied the record for free-throw attempts in a single game (21). Those numbers helped bump him to No. 4 in the NCAA for free throws attempted (138) and No. 7 in free throws made (103).
Hudgins Big Day
Sophomore Aly Hudgins got a chance to show what he is capable of adding to the Tigers team in the game at Southern Nazarene (Jan. 3). Hudgins tallied a career-best 14 points, going 5-of-5 from the field and 4-of-5 from the charity stripe. He also added three rebounds, an assist and a steal.
Thomas Player of the Week
ECU junior Stirling Thomas has picked up his first honor of the 2014-15 season, as he was named the Great American Conference Men's Basketball Player of the Week for Nov. 24. Thomas tallied 22 points and five assists against Arkansas-Monticello. Two days later, he scored 36 points and added seven steals vs Henderson State. His .875 (7-of-8) mark from behind the arc tied a school record for three-point field-goal percentage in a game and he was one steal away from tying the school record for steals in a game.
Redshirt sophomore Braxton Reeves might not have played in the 2013-14 season, but he has stepped right back into his game in 2014-15. Against Arkansas-Monticello, Reeves tallied a career-best 22 points, while shooting 9-of-14 from the field and 4-of-9 from beyond the arc.
Pwono Player of the Week
After finishing the 2013-14 season as the GAC Player of the Week, senior Henry Pwono has become the first GAC Player of the Week for the 2014-15 season. At the GAC/Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Challenge, Pwono averaged 20.5 points and 11 rebounds. The Pittsburgh, Pa., native scored 33 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in the victory against Wayne State College. He converted on 14-of-18 from the floor, including an 11-of-14 performance against the Wildcats.
Junior Stirling Thomas proved that he was a good addition to the Tigers squad as he came out and averaged 21.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in the first two outings of the 2014-15 season. Thomas shot .441 (15-of-34) from the field, .455 (5-of-11) from beyond the arc and .889 (8-of-9) from the charity stripe, while adding four assists and four steals.
Turning Out for the Exhibition
The Tigers had a strong showing at their exhibition game at Oral Roberts, falling by just seven points (68-75). ECU led for most of the game and took a 38-33 lead into the locker room at the half. The Tigers were led by junior Stirling Thomas, with 25 points and five rebounds, while senior Henry Pwono tallied 16 points and 11 rebounds. The duo were two of four players with double-digit point totals, with redshirt sophomore Braxton Reeves adding 15 and senior Brandon Lucas 10.
Making a Difference Off the Court
On the court is not the only place that you can find a member of ECU men's basketball team. Since head coach Ja Havens has taken over the program the Tigers have renewed their commitment to community service. ECU has been a part of several community service projects already this school year, with an emphasis on youth events. The Tigers have been to several elementary and middle schools in the area to read with the students and to get to know their younger fans.
The Tigers will continue on the road trip with a stop in Russellville, Ark., to face Arkansas Tech, Saturday, Jan. 17 at 3 p.m.
Up Next at Kerr Activities Center
ECU will then return home for the final two games of the first half of GAC action, including the Blackout the Power of the Storm game against Southeastern Oklahoma State, Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m.