Golden Suns Begin Postseason Play Thursday

2019-20 Arkansas Tech Women's Basketball Team

As sure as March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, Arkansas Tech University basketball has been a steadfast source of postseason basketball success during its NCAA Division II era.

The Golden Suns (16-10) will look to carry on that tradition this week when they compete in the women’s bracket at the Great American Conference Tournament.

Arkansas Tech, the No. 7 seed, will face No. 2 seed Harding University (19-9) in a first-round contest at Bruin Fieldhouse in Bartlesville, Okla., at 2:15 p.m. Thursday, March 5.

Radio station KARV 93.1 FM/610 AM and will provide live coverage of Thursday’s game.

ATU first became eligible for NCAA postseason play in 1998. The Golden Suns reached (and won) the championship game of the Gulf South Conference Tournament that March, beginning a string of conference tournament success that has continued almost unabated for more than two decades.

One or both Arkansas Tech basketball teams have qualified for conference tournament play in 19 of the last 22 seasons. Of those 19 league tournament appearances, the Golden Suns, the Wonder Boys or both have reached the championship round on 18 occasions. The only exception came in 2014, when both teams were eliminated in the GAC Tournament semifinals.

Arkansas Tech’s women have been the queens of Bartlesville over the years, reaching the GAC Tournament finals six of the last seven years, including the last five years consecutively. ATU won the women’s GAC Tournament title in 2013, 2016 and 2018.

The 2019 run was the Golden Suns’ most unlikely so far. As the No. 7 seed, Arkansas Tech took down No. 2 seed East Central University 76-74 in double overtime in the quarterfinals and No. 3 seed Southern Nazarene University 87-84 in overtime in the semifinals.

Southwestern Oklahoma State University, which went on to finish as 2019 NCAA Division II national runner-up, ended ATU’s Cinderella run by pulling away in the fourth quarter for an 87-66 win over the Suns in the GAC Tournament championship game.

Twelve months later, Arkansas Tech’s women are once again Bartlesville-bound. They are 16-5 all-time at Bruin Fieldhouse, and they’ll need all the good vibes they can find due to their placement in a tradition-filled half of the bracket.

Only three programs — Arkansas Tech, Harding and Southwestern Oklahoma State — have ever won the GAC Tournament title in women’s basketball. They are also the only three women’s programs to qualify for the event in each of its first nine years. All three are in the top half of the bracket for the 2020 event.

No. 3 seed Southwestern Oklahoma State (21-7) will face No. 6 seed University of Arkansas-Monticello (18-10) in its opening game.

Other first-round contests will pit No. 1 seed Southeastern Oklahoma State University (19-7) against No. 8 seed Southern Arkansas University (17-11) and fourth-seeded Southern Nazarene (17-9) against fifth-seeded Henderson State University (19-9). One of those four programs will advance to the GAC Tournament final for the first time.

The Golden Suns were 0-2 against Harding during the 2019-20 regular season. The Lady Bisons overcame a 10-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter and defeated Arkansas Tech 75-71 in overtime at Tucker Coliseum on Jan. 16. Harding completed the regular season sweep with an 87-69 victory over the Golden Suns on Feb. 13 Searcy. ATU was undone by 11 consecutive misses from the field over a span of more than eight minutes during the second period.

Arkansas Tech is 57-17 all-time in women’s basketball games against Harding. Their most recent postseason meeting came in the 2018 GAC Tournament championship game, which the Golden Suns won 63-62.