Conference Champions Once More

It’s time to make room in the rafters of Tucker Coliseum for yet another championship banner.

Arkansas Tech University clinched a share of the 24th regular season conference title in the 38-year history of its intercollegiate women’s basketball program with a 77-60 Great American Conference road victory over the University of Arkansas-Monticello Cotton Blossoms on Saturday afternoon.

“It feels awesome,” said Arkansas Tech head coach Dave Wilbers during the post-game radio interview with Paul Smith on KWKK 100.9 FM. “This is a very, very difficult conference with some tough road trips. It’s almost a survival thing. One thing I’ve seen this last week is a lot of improvement in our basketball team, and a lot of players improving individually. We had a tough week last week. We lost two road games, but we came back, practiced hard and got better. I couldn’t be more proud of this team to win a conference championship. Our offense has been tremendous the last 48 hours.”

The Golden Suns (21-5 overall, 16-4 GAC) shared the GAC regular season championship with Harding University (20-6, 16-4), which defeated Ouachita Baptist University 81-56 on Saturday night.

The Golden Suns built a 33-22 first-half lead on Saturday afternoon by making 14 of their first 23 field goal attempts.

But Arkansas Tech missed its final 10 field goal tries of the half and did not score a point over the final 5:49 of the period, a dry spell that allowed UAM to pull within 33-28 at the intermission.

Tech’s Anissa Pounds set the tone for the second half by making a 3-pointer at the 19:20 mark. Anna Lea Little sparked a 10-2 Golden Suns’ spurt by knocking down a 3-pointer with 15:27 remaining.

When Fatima Adams capped the run with a layup at the 13:35 mark, Arkansas Tech led 53-38.

The margin never dipped below 13 points the rest of the way. Any remaining doubt as to the outcome was removed by a 12-3 Golden Suns’ run that gave them a 72-49 advantage with 4:18 left.

Adams led Arkansas Tech with 18 points and eight rebounds. Katrina Hayden finished with 17 points and five assists for the Suns, while Pounds notched 14 points and seven assists. Little had 11 points.

Hayden, Pounds and Little combined to make 10-of-19 attempts from 3-point range.

Arkansas Tech out-rebounded the Cotton Blossoms 38-21. The Suns accumulated a 22-2 edge in second-chance points.

Nelsha Peterson scored a team-high 15 points for UAM (13-12, 11-9), which saw its seven-game winning streak in home women’s basketball games come to an end.

Arkansas Tech will be the No. 2 seed in the GAC Tournament, which begins on Thursday, March 5, at Bruin Fieldhouse in Bartlesville, Okla.

The Golden Suns’ first-round opponent will be Henderson State University (10-16). The Reddies are the No. 7 seed in the GAC Tournament after completing the regular season with a conference record of 8-12.

Tip-off for Arkansas Tech and Henderson State is set for 2:15 p.m. Thursday. The game can be heard over KWKK 100.9 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com.

View the complete 2015 GAC Tournament bracket.

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