Archives for December 2009

Golden Suns Look to Join 800-Win Club

Six head coaches, hundreds of student-athletes and thousands of fans have made the name Golden Suns synonymous with basketball excellence during the 33-year history of Arkansas Tech women’s hoops.

On Saturday, Arkansas Tech will try to add to its women’s basketball legend when the Golden Suns go for all-time win No. 800.  

Nationally 24th-ranked Arkansas Tech (11-0) will take on Northwest Missouri State (6-5) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Bearcat Arena in Maryville, Mo.

A broadcast of the game will be available on KWKK 100.9 FM and at www.athletics.atu.edu.

Only two NCAA Division II women’s basketball programs — Delta State University (Miss.) and Bentley College (Mass.) — have ever reached the 800-win plateau.

Arkansas Tech is attempting to become the third member of that club during a season that has already seen the Golden Suns make history. Tech is 11-0 for the first time since 1979-80 and for just the third time ever in women’s basketball.

The Suns are now 799-217 all-time. That is a .786 winning percentage, fourth-best in NCAA Division II women’s basketball history.

Junior guard Jenny Vining (20.3 points, 5.4 assists per game) and sophomore forward Natalia Santos (14 points, 6.5 rebounds per game) have led the Golden Suns to their longest winning streak since they reeled off 16 straight victories in 2007-08.

Northwest Missouri State already owns one upset win over a nationally-ranked foe this season. The Bearcats defeated then fifth-ranked Emporia State 88-76 on Dec. 2 behind 20 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots by 6-foot-2 post Gentry Dietz.

A transfer from Southern Illinois, Dietz is averaging 16.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

“She is the best post player we will have faced up to this point in the season,” said Tech head coach Dave Wilbers when asked about Dietz. “This will be a tough road trip for us. I like to play at least one really tough road game during non-conference play to get us ready for the Gulf South Conference, and this will provide us with that test.”

Saturday will mark just the second all-time meeting between Arkansas Tech and Northwest Missouri State in women’s basketball.

The Golden Suns won the previous meeting 87-68 on Dec. 8, 2007, behind 34 points and 12 rebounds from All-American Amanda Grappe. Grappe currently serves as a graduate assistant coach for the Suns.

After visiting Maryville, Mo., the Suns will trek on to Weatherford, Okla., for a contest against Southwestern Oklahoma State at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. The broadcast of that game will also be available on KWKK 100.9 FM and www.athletics.atu.edu.

Golden Suns Stay Perfect

Arkansas Tech is 11-0 in women’s basketball for the first time in 30 years after defeating the Midwestern State Mustangs 82-62 at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville on Wednesday night.

The nationally 24th-ranked Golden Suns used a 14-0 run early in the first half to take control for good as they cruised to the 799th win in the 33-year history of the program.

Tech will try to join Delta State (Miss.) and Bentley (Mass.) as the only NCAA Division II women’s basketball programs with 800 or more wins when the Golden Suns visit Northwest Missouri State in Maryville, Mo., at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

Russellville radio station KWKK 100.9 FM will have the broadcast, which will be streamed over the Internet at www.athletics.atu.edu.

The Suns scored 14 straight points to open a 20-7 lead over Midwestern State with 10:58 left until halftime.

It was the beginning of a larger 38-10 Arkansas Tech surge over a span of 13:15. That put the Suns in front 44-17 with 2:54 to go before intermission.

Tech went on to hold leads of 50-24 at halftime and 69-33 with 11:47 left in the game.

Midwestern State (4-7) scored 15 straight points to cut the Suns’ advantage to 69-48 with 7:08 to go, but that was as close as the Mustangs could get.

Arkansas Tech’s Jenny Vining scored 20 of her game-high 24 points in the first half. Natalia Santos (photographed) scored 14 points, while Katie Horsman added 11 points and Jessica Weatherford notched 10 points.

Anna Baran contributed eight points and five rebounds, while Ashley Chisum recorded seven assists and made seven steals to lead all players in those two categories.

Nolisha Markham scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead Midwestern State. Aqueelah Watkins had 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Mustangs.

Arkansas Tech is 11-0 for the first time since 1979-80, and this marks just the third start of 11-0 or better in Golden Suns’ history.

Tech’s women started 13-0 in 1978-79 and 14-0 in 1979-80.

Undefeated Golden Suns at Home Wednesday

Only two of the first 32 teams in Arkansas Tech Golden Suns basketball history won their first 11 games of the season.

On Wednesday night, the Golden Suns have a chance to make that list a party of three.

Arkansas Tech (10-0) will look to post its first 11-game winning streak to start a women’s basketball season in 30 years when the nationally 24th-ranked Golden Suns host the Midwestern State Mustangs (4-6) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 30.

Tickets will be available at the door. Admission is free for those with a valid Tech identification card.

The last time the Suns started 11-0 or better was the 1979-80 season. All-American Sherry Raney led that Tech squad to a school-record 14-0 start.

One year before that school-record 14-0 start, the Suns won their first 13 games of the 1978-79 campaign.

Those are the only two Tech women’s teams to ever start 11-0 or better.

This year’s Golden Suns will have to shake off a bit of rust to get to 11-0. The Suns have not played since defeating Alabama-Huntsville 98-65 on Dec. 21.

Tech head coach Dave Wilbers said that he believes his team will be physically ready to go after the nine-day break from game competition.

“We’re very close to the conditioning level we need to be at,” said Wilbers, who is 55-15 in three years as the Suns head coach. “Anytime you take four days off from practice you take a step back with your conditioning, but the players did a good job of working out during that time. They came back strong, and I’d say by the time conference play rolls around (on Jan. 9) we’ll be in our best shape of the year.”

Junior guard Jenny Vining was certainly in good form before the holiday break. She set a new career high by scoring 35 points and she made a school-record nine 3-pointers in a 75-66 win at North Alabama on Dec. 19.

Vining shattered her personal scoring best and made more Tech history 48 hours later by scoring 41 points against UAH. She became just the third different Golden Sun to ever score 40 or more points in a game.

It was the first 40-point game by a Tech women’s player since Jan. 4, 1990, when Lanell Dawson scored 42 points against Louisiana College.

Dawson and Donna Brunson both topped the 40-point mark twice in their careers, both were All-Americans and both are members of the Arkansas Tech Hall of Distinction.

Vining leads the Gulf South Conference with a 19.9 points per game average. She is second in the league in assists (5.5 per game).

With 69 successful tries from the field and 55 assists, Vining has had a big hand in 41 percent (124-of-303) of Tech’s made field goals this season.

Sophomore forward Natalia Santos (14 points, 6.7 rebounds per game), junior guard Laura Beth Anderson (9.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists per game) and freshman forward Jessica Weatherford (8.4 points, 5.3 rebounds per game) have also been among Tech’s top contributors this season.

Sophomore forward Katie Horsman took a big step forward during the Alabama trip. She averaged 13.5 points per game and was 5-of-7 from 3-point range during the two-game swing.

Senior point guard Ashley Chisum missed the first four games of the season due to injury, but since returning she has posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of nearly 3-to-1 (32 assists, 12 turnovers in six games).

Midwestern State is 0-4 away from home this season. The Mustangs rank at the bottom of the Lone Star Conference in 3-point field goals made (3.4 per game), but they make up for that deficiency by grabbing 13.2 offensive rebounds per game — fourth-best in the LSC.

“The key to the game will be whether or not we can block them out,” said Wilbers. “They haven’t shot a good percentage so far this season, but they are as good as anyone we’ve played so far this season on second-chance points.”

Defense has fueled Midwestern State so far this year. The Mustangs have held their first 10 opponents to 39.9 percent shooting from the field, and they rank third in the LSC in blocked shots (3.5 per game).

“They are very active and athletic,” said Wilbers of Midwestern State’s defense. “They don’t have a lot of big girls, but they have several 5-10 and 5-11 athletes. They will cause us some mismatch problems, and we won’t get a lot of second looks because they run down defensive rebounds.”

After the Midwestern State game, the Golden Suns will ring in 2010 with a two-game road trip.

The Suns will visit Northwest Missouri State for a 1:30 p.m. game in Maryville, Mo., on Jan. 2. They will then head to Weatherford, Okla., for a 3:30 p.m. contest against Southwestern Oklahoma State on Jan. 5.

All Tech basketball games can be heard on KWKK 100.9 FM and over the Internet at www.athletics.atu.edu.

Tech Student-Athletes Give Back to Community

Members of the Arkansas Tech University Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) held a change drive for the Main Street Mission as a service project this holiday season.

Tech student-athletes collected $302, which they donated to the Main Street Mission last week.

Mark Dollar of Main Street Mission accepted the donation on behalf of the organization. Kendall Pinkney of Dardanelle, secretary of the Tech SAAC and a freshman member of the Tech men’s basketball program, presented the donation.

Also photographed are (from left): Amy White, Arkansas Tech head women’s golf coach and NCAA compliance coordinator; Amanda Beavers, Leslie Dollar and Eli Dollar of Main Street Mission; Willie Sanders of Jacksonville, Fla., junior member of the Tech men’s basketball program; Amanda Curtis of Vilonia, freshman member of the Tech women’s basketball program; and Abby Davis, Arkansas Tech head tennis coach.

Wonder Boys Stay Put At No. 5

Arkansas Tech will enter the holiday break ranked No. 5 in the National Association of Basketball Coaches NCAA Division II top 25 poll.

The Wonder Boys (11-0) were ranked fifth for a second consecutive week when this week’s rankings were released on Tuesday, Dec. 22.

Tech was 3-0 over the last week. The Wonder Boys earned victories over Ecclesia College, North Alabama and Alabama-Huntsville to run their winning streak to 11 in a row.

The current string matches the eighth-longest winning streak in the 95-year history of Wonder Boys basketball.

There were no changes in the top six spots of the national poll, and only one new team — 24th-ranked Augustana (S.D.) — entered the top 25.

Click here to view the complete poll.

The Wonder Boys will be idle until Jan. 4, when they will visit Northeastern State University for a 7 p.m. contest at Jack Dobbins Field House in Tahlequah, Okla.

Tech’s next home men’s basketball game is scheduled for Jan. 5. The Wonder Boys will host Champion Baptist on that evening. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.