Archives for December 2010

Final Tune-Ups Before GSC Play for Tech

Arkansas Tech’s basketball teams will complete their preparation for Gulf South Conference West Division play with one last out of league test on Monday, Jan 3.

The nationally fifth-ranked Golden Suns (10-1) will face the St. Edward’s Hilltoppers (7-6) at 6 p.m. in Austin, Texas. The game can be heard live on KVLD 99.3 FM and over the Internet at www.athletics.atu.edu.

The Wonder Boys (8-3) will host the Northeastern State RiverHawks (5-6) for a 7 p.m. contest at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville. Tickets will be available at the gate and those with a valid Tech identification card will be admitted free.

The men’s game will be broadcast by KWKK 100.9 FM and streamed over the Internet at www.athletics.atu.edu.

League play will begin for both Arkansas Tech basketball teams on Saturday, Jan. 8, with a GSC West Division doubleheader at Henderson State.

Tech was picked to sweep the 2010-11 GSC West Division basketball titles in a preseason poll of league head coaches. This will be the Golden Suns’ and the Wonder Boys’ final tour of the GSC West. Next season, Arkansas Tech will be part of the new NCAA Division II Great American Conference.

So far, the Golden Suns and the Wonder Boys have performed at a level consistent with the high expectations placed upon them.

Arkansas Tech’s women have won six consecutive games, including a 75-63 victory over nationally 22nd-ranked West Texas A&M on Wednesday.

Also part of that six-game winning streak was an 80-57 triumph on Dec. 4 over St. Edward’s, which will receive a return visit from the Golden Suns on Monday.

The Suns used a 13-0 second-half run to pull away for a 23-point victory over the Hilltoppers, but Tech head coach Dave Wilbers knows that the rematch will present a different set of challenges.

“It’s going to be tough down there,” said Wilbers. “(St.Edward’s) gave us some problems early in the first game, but we made some adjustments with our defense and kind of controlled the game after that. Our team has always stepped up after Christmas. We always take a trip like this that gets us away from campus and helps us grow as a team. We need a tough road game going into conference, so I like the way our schedule is set up.”

The Tech men have suffered non-conference losses to nationally fourth-ranked Alabama-Huntsville and Drury University, two teams that have a combined record of 20-2 this season. The Wonder Boys’ only other setback came on a tip-in in the final 10 seconds at West Georgia.

Arkansas Tech has already earned in-region wins over peer NCAA Division II men’s opponents West Alabama and North Alabama. Monday provides the Wonder Boys with another opportunity to pick up a valuable in-region victory.

Northeastern State owns an impressive 82-80 overtime victory over GSC West Division member Harding University (10-2), but that game was played on the RiverHawks’ home floor in Tahlequah, Okla. NSU is just 1-5 away from Jack Dobbins Field House this season.

“Another coach told me that (Northeastern State) has been a little bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team this season,” said Arkansas Tech head coach Doug Karleskint. “Coach (Larry) Gipson does such a great job over there. We saw them last year, and we were lucky to get out of Tahlequah with a win. They are going to screen us to death and run a really tight motion offense. We’ve got to get better defensively.”

Six Reach Double Figures in Tech Win

Arkansas Tech topped the century mark for the fourth time this men’s basketball season while cruising to a 108-65 victory over the MidAmerica Nazarene Pioneers at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville on Thursday night.

James Causey had 21 points, six rebounds and six steals as Arkansas Tech improved to 6-1 at home this season.

Jared Williamson added 15 points, five rebounds and five steals for the Wonder Boys, while Jeremy Dunbar and Matt Haney had 13 points apiece.

Blake Mitchem (photographed) scored a season-high 11 points and Johnie Davis netted 10 points to give Tech six players in double figures in scoring. Mitchem added seven rebounds — six on the offensive glass.

Laithe Massey contributed eight points and five assists and Willie Sanders notched eight points and eight rebounds for the Wonder Boys.

Arkansas Tech (8-3) used an 11-2 run to open a 31-16 lead with 7:53 left in the first half. The margin grew to 48-27 at halftime and never dropped below 21 points in the second half.

The Wonder Boys committed just seven turnovers. MidAmerica Nazarene was guilty of 27 turnovers. Those numbers allowed Tech to finish with a 31-2 advantage in points off turnovers.

Barry Robinson led the Pioneers with 12 points. Tech held Rustin Dowd, the leading scorer in the nation at the NAIA level at 25.1 points per game, to nine points.

The Wonder Boys will host Northeastern State University (Okla.) for a 7 p.m. non-conference game at Tucker Coliseum on Monday, Jan. 3.

No. 5 Suns Top No. 22 WTAMU 75-63

Laura Beth Anderson scored a career-high 19 points to lead the nationally fifth-ranked Arkansas Tech Golden Suns to a 75-63 win over the nationally 22nd-ranked West Texas A&M Lady Buffs at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville on Wednesday night.

Anderson (photographed) was 6-of-11 from the field and 7-of-7 at the free throw line.

She also made six assists and seven rebounds as the Golden Suns (10-1) extended their home winning streak to 26 consecutive games.

West Texas A&M (6-4) led 23-17 with 7:19 left in the first half, but nine straight Arkansas Tech points put the Suns in front for the first time.

Tech closed the first half on a 20-8 run and led 37-31 at halftime.

A Jamie Simmons layup with 17:31 left cut the Golden Suns’ edge to 39-35. Then came the decisive stretch in the game as Arkansas Tech held the Lady Buffs without a point for the next 6:02 and the Suns opened a 54-35 advantage.

The margin never dipped below 11 points the rest of the way. Combined with its 65-62 loss to Northeastern State (Okla.) on Dec. 20, West Texas A&M suffered consecutive losses for the first time since February 2009.

Arkansas Tech was 25-of-43 (58 percent) from the field and the Suns finished with a 38-21 rebounding edge.

All five Tech starters reached double figures in scoring. In addition to Anderson, Natalia Santos netted 13 points, Jenny Vining contributed 11 points and Shaquilah Davis and Jessica Weatherford had 10 points apiece.

Santos also grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds.

West Texas A&M was 26-of-40 (40 percent) from the field. Arkansas Tech has held 50 consecutive opponents below 50 percent shooting from the field.

Megan McClain scored a team-high 17 points for the Lady Buffs. She also had seven assists, five steals and four rebounds.

The Golden Suns will visit St. Edward’s University for a 6 p.m. non-conference game in Austin, Texas, on Monday, Jan. 3.

Dowd to Test Wonder Boys Thursday Night

Arkansas Tech will face the task of defending one of the top scorers in all of college basketball when the Wonder Boys host the MidAmerica Nazarene University Pioneers at Tucker Coliseum on Thursday night.

The Wonder Boys (7-3) and the Pioneers (6-7) will jump center at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Tickets will be available at the gate. Those with a valid Tech identification card will be admitted free.

MidAmerica Nazarene’s Rustin Dowd, a 5-foot-11 sophomore guard, has been next to unstoppable through his first 10 games of the season.

Dowd is averaging 25.1 points per game, which leads the country at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) level.

He shoots 45 percent (29-of-64) from 3-point range, but Dowd’s game is not limited to the perimeter shot. His aptitude for making plays off the dribble is indicated by his ability to draw fouls and get to the free throw line. Dowd averages 7.9 free throw attempts per game, and he makes 73 percent of those tries.

Dowd also leads the Pioneers in assists (3.9 per game) and steals (1.9 per game).

“(Dowd) is their point guard, but he has the scoring mentality of an off guard,” said Tech head coach Doug Karleskint. “He puts himself in good scoring positions, whether be it off the bounce, moving without the ball or coming off screens. He’s a smart basketball player that just gets a lot done. Those 25 points per game are legit.”

Arkansas Tech will be playing its first game in 13 days. The Wonder Boys defeated North Alabama 75-57 on Dec. 17 behind 22 points from senior forward Jeremy Dunbar and a 33-20 advantage in points off turnovers.

Junior guard Johnie Davis (13.3 points per game), senior forward James Causey (12.1 points per game), Dunbar (11.3 points per game) and senior guard Willie Sanders (10.9 points per game) are Arkansas Tech’s leading scorers through its first 10 games of the season.

Senior point guard Laithe Massey adds 8.0 points per contest for the Wonder Boys, and he leads the Gulf South Conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.75-to-1).

“I think that our focus and our energy level have been pretty good in practice,” said Karleskint of his team’s post-holiday preparation. “We had a couple of days that we got two practices in, so the guys were a little sore and achy after that first day. Overall we’ve had some good practices.”

Russellville radio station KWKK 100.9 FM will broadcast Thursday’s contest. There will be live video and audio streams from the game at www.athletics.atu.edu.

All-Time Great Programs Meet Wednesday

Few women’s college basketball programs can match the traditions at Arkansas Tech University and West Texas A&M University. 

On Wednesday, Dec. 29, the nationally fifth-ranked Golden Suns (9-1) and the nationally 22nd-ranked Lady Buffs (6-3) will be matched against each other in a collision between two of the top four programs in NCAA Division II history.

Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m. at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville. Tickets will go on sale at 4:30 p.m. at the coliseum ticket office. Those with a valid Tech identification card will be admitted free.

Arkansas Tech has an all-time winning percentage of .789, second-best among the nearly 300 institutions that sponsor NCAA Division II women’s basketball.

West Texas A&M’s .780 all-time winning percentage is fourth-best in NCAA Division II history.

Combined, the Golden Suns and the Lady Buffs have made 39 postseason national tournament appearances. Arkansas Tech has been to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight three times since 1998; West Texas A&M has reached that lofty plateau four times since 1987.

The current incarnations of the Golden Suns and the Lady Buffs are worthy of the legacies they inherited.

Arkansas Tech entered the 2010-11 season ranked No. 1 in the nation and the preseason favorite to win the Gulf South Conference West Division. West Texas A&M was seventh in the preseason national poll and the pick to win the Lone Star Conference South Division.

Those expectations were built in part on the fact that the Golden Suns and the Lady Buffs both feature one of the top post players in the country.

Arkansas Tech’s Natalia Santos is ranked second in the GSC in scoring (19.6 points per game) and first in the GSC in field goal percentage (.607).

West Texas A&M’s Jamie Simmons is fourth in the LSC in both scoring (18.7 points per game) and rebounding (8.9 per game). Like Santos, she leads her conference in field goal percentage (.600).

“They’re both really good on the low block, they’re both strong and they’re both good rebounders,” said Arkansas Tech head coach Dave Wilbers when asked to compare Santos and Simmons. “Simmons has a lot of post moves, she does a good job running the floor and she’s very athletic. Both of them are very good players.”

The Golden Suns suffered an early loss at West Alabama, but they have bounced back with five consecutive wins. Arkansas Tech, the defending NCAA Division II South Region champion, has been ranked among the top 10 of NCAA Division II in 14 consecutive polls. 

West Texas A&M was dealt an early setback that was much more significant than losing a game. Joni Unruh, the preseason LSC South Division player of the year, was lost for the season after just three games because of a knee injury.

Unruh, who made 102 steals last season, was averaging 14.7 points per game in 2010-11 at the time of her injury.

Casey Land is among the Lady Buffs who have stepped forward to pick up the slack. A freshman from Canyon, Texas, Land averages 7.3 points and 3.8 assists per game. She is second in the Lone Star Conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.7-to-1).

West Texas A&M is 4-2 since losing Unruh. Land has averaged 13.3 points per game in those four wins, but just 1.5 points per game in the two losses.

“(Land) can handle the basketball and she shoots it very well,” said Wilbers. “She’s from one of the best high school programs in the country, and she’s a tough match-up for us. (West Texas A&M’s) guards are very athletic. They have a combination of size and athleticism that we haven’t seen so far this season.

“They really just have a good, balanced team,” continued Wilbers. “It’s a team that looks a lot like us. They have good post players, athletic guards, 3-point shooters and players who can drive to the basket. It will be a tough match-up for both teams. It’s a game that if you can win it, it will be good down the road for NCAA Tournament selections and regional rankings. It’ll be a good battle.”

The Suns will carry a 25-game home winning streak into Wednesday’s contest. It is the fourth-longest such streak in Arkansas Tech women’s basketball history.

Russellville radio station KWKK 100.9 FM will broadcast the game. Live video and audio streams will be available at www.athletics.atu.edu.