When the calendar flipped to February, there was only one foreseeable factor that could have prevented the Arkansas Tech Golden Suns from becoming a championship caliber basketball team --- turnovers.
Six games later, the Golden Suns have cut down on their turnovers and put themselves in position to win the inaugural Great American Conference women’s basketball title.
Nationally 13th-ranked Arkansas Tech (20-3 overall, 11-3 GAC) will continue its championship pursuit with a GAC contest at Ouachita Baptist (16-8, 9-5) on Thursday, Feb. 23.
Tip-off at Vining Arena in Arkadelphia is set for 5:30 p.m. The game can be heard on KWKK 100.9 FM.
Click here to access an Internet stream of the broadcast.
The Golden Suns’ path to championship contender began on Feb. 2 in Monticello. Arkansas Tech committed 28 turnovers and nearly saw a 19-point lead over Arkansas-Monticello slip through its fingers. The Suns held on for a 77-76 win, and they learned a valuable lesson about protecting the basketball.
In the six contests since that night at Steelman Field House, Arkansas Tech has made more assists than turnovers in every game. The Golden Suns have committed less than 20 turnovers in five of their last six games while surging to the front of the GAC pack.
“We were having a good season up until that point, but I think we were still trying to find ourselves,” said Tech head coach Dave Wilbers when reflecting back to early February. “We were still figuring out what we were good at and what we needed to improve upon. I think the Monticello game was a wake-up call that we have to value the basketball more. We’ve played very well and been consistent since then.”
Arkansas Tech is one-half game in front of Southwestern Oklahoma State (16-9, 11-4), which will conclude its regular season by visiting Southeastern Oklahoma State on Thursday night. The Golden Suns will host Southern Arkansas for their regular season finale at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25.
Junior point guard Rosie Silva is among the main reasons that Arkansas Tech can assure itself of an outright GAC title with two wins this week. She has averaged 15.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists and 5.8 steals per game over the Golden Suns’ last five games.
Silva broke her own single-game school record by making 12 steals in a 73-62 win at Harding on Monday. She has 114 steals this season, shattering the previous school record for steals in a season of 93 set by All-American Jennifer Richardson in 1996-97.
Now that she has reached double figures in scoring in five consecutive games, including 18 points at Harding on Monday, Silva has become a viable All-America candidate. She leads NCAA Division II in steals (4.6 per game) and ranks third in the nation in assists (6.8 per game).
“Rosie is working on her shot a lot more,” said Wilbers. “She is making some 3-pointers and she is hitting that 15-foot jumper. The second thing is that she is shooting free throws better and she is getting to the line more. She’s always had the ability to finish plays on the fast break. I think one of the keys to our play over the last seven or eight games is that we’ve had more balanced scoring.”
Ouachita Baptist has won five consecutive women’s basketball games. The Lady Tigers moved into a tie for third place in the GAC standings with an 82-69 win over Henderson State on Monday. OBU won the game by making 32-of-36 free throws (89 percent) and by finishing with a 50-35 rebounding edge.
Arkansas Tech defeated Ouachita Baptist 76-66 in Russellville on Jan. 26. Silva had the first triple-double in the 35-year history of Golden Suns basketball that night by scoring 19 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and making 11 steals.
Tech was 24-of-28 (86 percent) from the free throw line in its win over the Lady Tigers, who made just 4-of-9 free throw tosses (44 percent).
Click here to learn more about Arkansas Tech women's basketball.]]>