Southwestern Oklahoma State put a major first-half blitz on the Arkansas Tech Golden Suns when the two sides met in Weatherford, Okla., last month. On Thursday night, Arkansas Tech returned the favor.
The nationally 13th-ranked Golden Suns raced out to a 19-point halftime lead and never looked back as they defeated the Great American Conference-leading Bulldogs 101-87 at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville.
The Arkansas Tech win was payback for an 85-82 Bulldogs' win over the Golden Suns on Jan. 12. The victory also pulled Tech within one game of the GAC lead with six regular season league contests remaining.
"Our bench came in with energy in the first half and scored points," said Arkansas Tech head coach Dave Wilbers. "There was no drop off, and even a little bit of a lift when we went to our bench players. From the 10-minute mark of the first half through the second half we ran really good offense.
"There's no doubt we were focused for tonight," continued Wilbers. "Anytime you lose to a team and get another shot at them, if you have pride in yourself you come back and compete. We did that tonight."
Tech's Jessica Weatherford matched her season high with 19 points. She was 7-of-13 from the field and 5-of-5 at the free throw line. Katie Horsman (photographed) and Natalia Santos added 16 points apiece. Horsman grabbed eight rebounds, while Santos made seven rebounds.
Rosie Silva scored 14 points, gathered five rebounds, dished out six assists and made six steals for the Golden Suns (16-3 overall, 7-3 GAC).
Silva now has 91 steals this season, just two short of matching the single-season school record set by All-American Jennifer Richardson when she made 93 steals in 1996-97.
Samanta Ludwig and Lily Abreu notched 12 points apiece to give Arkansas Tech six players in double figures in scoring. The Suns shot 54 percent from the field. They held a 64-38 edge in points in the paint and a 32-17 advantage in points off turnovers.
Arkansas Tech took control of the game late in the first half with a 10-0 spurt. Horsman sparked the run with a 3-pointer, Santos made two free throws and Josie Bazilio scored five straight points to give the Suns a 37-24 lead with 5:32 to go before halftime.
When Santos scored a put-back basket with one second left in the half, Arkansas Tech took a 53-34 lead at the intermission.
Southwestern Oklahoma State hit six of its first eight field goal tries in the second half and pulled within 63-50 at the 14:14 mark, but another Horsman trey stopped the Bulldogs' momentum. Her shot sparked a 7-0 Arkansas Tech run and the Suns maintained at least a 14-point lead the rest of the way.
Jasmine Noldon scored all 18 of her points after halftime for Southwestern Oklahoma State (13-8, 8-3). Darcie Dick had 15 points and Sumiya Darden recorded 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulldogs.
The outcome in Russellville, paired with Harding's 79-44 win over East Central University in Searcy on Thursday night, means there is a new leader in the GAC standings. The Harding Lady Bisons (15-5, 8-2) are in first place, while Southwestern Oklahoma State is one-half game back in second place and Arkansas Tech is one game off the pace in third place.
The Golden Suns will host East Central University for a 2 p.m. GAC game at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville on Saturday, Feb. 11.
Tickets will be available at the door. Admission will be $5 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens. Those with a valid Arkansas Tech identification card will be admitted free.
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