First Place Battle: Wonder Boys to Visit HU

Arkansas Tech and Harding will play the game of the year in Gulf South Conference West Division men’s basketball on Thursday, Feb. 24, when they meet at Rhodes Field House in Searcy with the regular season conference title hanging in the balance. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. The game can be heard in the Arkansas River Valley on KWKK 100.9 FM.

Click here to access an Internet stream of the broadcast.

The nationally ninth-ranked Wonder Boys (21-3 overall, 12-0 GSC) are the defending GSC West Division champions. They hold a one-game lead over the nationally 14th-ranked Bisons (21-3, 11-1) with two games left in the regular season. If Arkansas Tech wins on Thursday, it clinches the GSC West Division title and a No. 1 seed in the GSC Tournament next month at Southaven, Miss. If Harding wins on Thursday, it ties the Wonder Boys for first place in the GSC West heading into the final day of the regular season on Saturday. And the drama will be played out in perhaps the most electric atmosphere in all of NCAA Division II basketball — Rhodes Field House in Searcy. Does it get much better than this?  “Our guys are ready for it,” said Arkansas Tech head coach Doug Karleskint. “They were already talking about it when I got to the locker room on Saturday night (after a 90-59 win over Delta State). I’m so proud of our seniors. They fought through it early in the year, and we came back after the Christmas break and had a great practice on Dec. 27. Ever since then, our intensity level has gone way up in practice. This is an important time of year to continue to improve.”

The Wonder Boys lead the GSC West courtesy of an 85-55 win over Harding on Jan. 27. Senior point guard Laithe Massey recorded the second triple-double in Wonder Boys’ history (17 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists), Johnie Davis notched 26 points and Jeremy Dunbar added 19 points for Arkansas Tech in the win. The Wonder Boys dominated both the rebound margin (+14) and the turnover margin (+12) while defeating Harding for a fourth consecutive time. The Bisons have not beaten Arkansas Tech since Valentine’s Day 2009.  Earning a fifth straight win over Harding might hinge upon keeping the Bisons away from the free throw line.

Harding has attempted 734 free tosses this season, an average of 30.6 per game. By comparison, the Bisons’ opponents have only tried 470 free throws (19.6 per game) in 2010-11.  The Wonder Boys will close out their regular season by hosting Ouachita Baptist at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 26, at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville. Tickets will go on sale at 3 p.m. Saturday at the coliseum ticket office. Those with a valid Tech identification card will be admitted free.

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