Willie Kirkland. (Photo: Arkansas Tech University)
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (ATU) - Arkansas Tech University Senior Willie Kirkland scored a career-high 22 points and grabbed a career-best seven rebounds, while senior Will Paul added 10 points of his own, but the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys (0-1) were unable to overcome a slow start in the first half, dropping a 75-60 decision to the Northeastern State RiverHawks (2-0) on Thursday at Jack Dobbins Field House.
"All preseason we talked about having a sense of urgency, and it was pretty evident that we didn't have it in the first half," said Wonder Boys head coach Doug Karleskint. "The first half was about as ugly a half of basketball as I have seen since I've been at Tech."
Northeastern State jumped out to an early lead, taking a 7-0 lead at the 17:27 mark of the first half. The Wonder Boys scored their first bucket on a Paul lay-up with 16:28 remaining in the opening half. The RiverHawks would lead by as many as 19 in the opening half, pulling ahead 37-18 with 1:08 remaining. Tech scored the final five points of the half to pull to within 37-23 at intermission.
The Wonder Boys opened the second half on a hot streak, pulling to within two points (43-41) at the 14:15 mark, but NSU pushed its lead back out to seven (52-45) four minutes later and held the Wonder Boys at arm's length until the final minute of the contest, when NSU hit six free throws to extend the final margin to 15.
NSU held a 34-25 advantage on the rebounding glass, while shooting 56.4 percent from the floor while holding Tech to a 37.3 percent clip.
The Wonder Boys will have eight days off before returning to action on Nov. 13 against Missouri-St. Louis in the Drury Classic. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m.