Arkansas Tech got the defensive stops and free throws it needed at the critical moments to take an 81-75 non-conference women's basketball win over the Missouri Western Golden Griffons at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville on Monday night.
The nationally 13th-ranked Golden Suns (15-3) received key defensive rebounds from Natalia Santos and Jessica Weatherford in the final two minutes, and Santos took a charge with four seconds left that sealed the victory.
Those stops, combined with 5-of-6 free throw shooting over the final 2:02, allowed Arkansas Tech to improve to 2-0 all-time in women's basketball games against Missouri Western.
"When you get late in the game, someone has to make plays," said Golden Suns head coach Dave Wilbers. "That charge that Natalia took was the best defense I've ever seen her play."
Santos finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds on the night she went over 1,400 career points. She was 10-of-14 from the field. It was the second game back from injury for Santos, who missed the Southern Arkansas game on Jan. 28 with a foot injury.
"Natalia is feeling better," said Wilbers. "She is doing a good job with her rehab, and the girls did a good job of getting the basketball to her tonight."
Katie Horsman was 6-of-8 from 3-point range, and she matched her career high with 23 points. Her back-to-back 3-pointers with 13:42 and 13:15 left put Arkansas Tech in front for good at 55-53.
Another Horsman trey gave the Suns their biggest lead of the night at 63-55 with 11:34 left.
The Griffons did not fold, and when Ashleigh Curry hit a 6-footer in the lane with 2:07 left, the Arkansas Tech advantage was cut to 76-75.
Those proved to be Missouri Western's final two points of the game. Misses by All-America candidate Jessica Koch were rebounded by Weatherford with 1:26 to go and by Santos with 39 seconds left.
Tech's Rosie Silva made 3-of-4 at the free throw line and Horsman made 2-of-2 free tosses down the stretch as the Suns won for the 44th time in their last 45 home games.
Weatherford had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Silva scored eight points and dished out eight assists. Samanta Ludwig added eight points and seven rebounds for the Golden Suns. Lily Abreu netted six points.
Koch scored 31 points on 13-of-21 shooting from the field for Missouri Western (6-15). She made just one of her final six field goal tries.
The Golden Suns will return to Great American Conference action on Thursday, Feb. 9, with a 5:30 p.m. home game against the Southwestern Oklahoma State Bulldogs (13-7 overall, 8-2 GAC).
Southwestern Oklahoma State is in first place in the GAC women's basketball standings. The Bulldogs defeated Arkansas Tech 85-82 in Weatherford, Okla., on Jan. 12.
The Golden Suns have a GAC record of 6-3, which puts them one-and-a-half games behind SWOSU and in third place in the league standings.
Promotional ticket prices of $5 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens will be in effect for Thursday's doubleheader at Tucker Coliseum.
Game two will pit the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys (15-4, 7-2) against the Southwestern Oklahoma Bulldogs (12-7, 4-6) at 7:30 p.m.
Those with a valid Arkansas Tech identification card will be admitted free of charge.
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