Fast or Slow? Pace Will Be Key for Tech, CBU

It would be difficult to dream up a greater contrast in styles of play than the one that will be on exhibit Thursday when the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys visit the nationally 14th-ranked Christian Brothers Buccaneers. Tip-off at Canale Arena in Memphis, Tenn., is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 13. The Gulf South Conference West Division game can be heard on KWKK 100.9 FM.

Click here to access an Internet stream of the broadcast. Arkansas Tech (10-3 overall, 1-0 GSC) plays an up-tempo, drive-and-dish style of basketball that is designed to maximize the number of possessions in a game. As a result, Tech ranks 14th in NCAA Division II in scoring offense (85.8 points per game) and second in the nation in turnover margin (+9.4 turnovers per game). Christian Brothers (13-2, 1-0) wants the exact opposite. The Buccaneers employ a Princeton-style offense that relies on patience to mentally and physically drain their opponents. By limiting possessions and adhering to a deliberate pace, Christian Brothers ranks second in the nation in scoring defense (54.0 points allowed per game) and fifth in the nation in fewest turnovers per game (11.7). Arkansas Tech head coach Doug Karleskint knows all of that means that his team cannot dig itself a big hole early. “If you fall behind Christian Brothers by 10 or 12 points, it’s like falling behind by 15 or 20 against most other teams,” said Karleskint. “They take care of the ball so well and they rebound it so well. They are just a good team all the way around. We have to get off to a fast start.” The Wonder Boys swept the season series with the Buccaneers last season. Tech defeated CBU 52-46 in Memphis on Feb. 1, 2010, and 68-54 in Russellville on Feb. 27, 2010. The free throw line helped decide both games. The Wonder Boys were 40-of-52 from the line against the Buccaneers last season, while CBU was just 14-of-21 at the charity stripe in those two meetings. “We’ve improved as this season has gone along at getting into the paint and drawing contact,” said Karleskint. “I thought we did a really good job of that last Saturday (in an 84-74 win at Henderson State). We need to have the same effort against Christian Brothers. One thing they will do to us is sag back in the paint, and it’s so tempting to take that quick shot that is out of rhythm. We want shots in rhythm going toward the basket. It’s important that we make them work on defense just as hard as they will make us work.” Junior forward Zack Warner (16.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game) and junior guard Scott Dennis (14.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists per game) are Christian Brothers’ top two players. Dennis ranks second in NCAA Division II in rebounds this season. His 53 offensive rebounds are second-most in the GSC, and he leads the Buccaneers in steals (32). Arkansas Tech features five players who average double figures in scoring — junior guard Johnie Davis (13.9 points per game), senior forward Jeremy Dunbar (photographed; 12.1 points per game), senior forward James Causey (11.0 points per game), senior guard Willie Sanders (10.7 points per game) and sophomore guard Jared Williamson (10.0 points per game). Tech senior point guard Laithe Massey is third in NCAA Division II in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.73-to-1). He ranks 24th in the country in assists (5.5 per game). Causey leads the GSC and ranks ninth nationally in steals (2.8 per game). After their trip to Memphis, the Wonder Boys will host Arkansas-Monticello for a 6 p.m. game at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville on Saturday. It will be Arkansas Tech’s first home GSC game of the season. Tickets will be available at the door on Saturday. Those with a valid Tech identification card will be admitted free.