Golden Suns Win 81-80 in NCAA 1st Round

A big edge in turnover margin turned up an NCAA Division II Tournament win for Arkansas Tech University on Friday night.

The nationally 12th-ranked Golden Suns defeated 10th-ranked Missouri Western State University 81-80 at John Lance Arena in Pittsburg, Kan., in the first round of the NCAA Central Regional.

With the win, Arkansas Tech (27-3) advances to face regional host Pittsburg State University (27-5) in the regional semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Radio station KCJC 102.3 FM and will have live coverage.

The Golden Suns finished with a plus-8 turnover margin and a 23-9 edge in points off turnovers.

“This is a big win for the Great American Conference and our program,” said Arkansas Tech head coach Dave Wilbers. “Missouri Western is the (Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association) champion, and both of these teams are ranked in the top 12 in the nation, meeting in the first round. This is a tough region. Our defense was really good. Our zone defense was outstanding, and it gave us a chance to catch our breath.”

Fatima Adams’ bank shot with 1:02 left put the Golden Suns in front for good at 78-77. Calli White added a 2-of-2 trip to the free throw line with 13.3 seconds left to make it a three-point margin, and Missouri Western called a timeout to set up a potential game-tying 3-pointer.

That try was hoisted by Sarafina Handy, who had already made five treys on the night. This one, however, was blocked and rebounded by Adams. She was fouled with 7.1 seconds left and made 1-of-2 free throws to give Tech an insurmountable 81-77 edge.

Missouri Western’s Sefulu Faavae hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to set the final margin.

Adams finished with 26 points, seven rebounds and five assists, tying her career high in that category. Aujana Dawkins added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Golden Suns. It was her fourth double-double of the season. Bre Brooks notched 12 points and White had 11 points for Arkansas Tech.

Dwanisha Tate scored a season-high 22 points for the Golden Griffons, who finished their season with a 27-4 overall record.

The other regional semifinal will pit Emporia State University against Winona State University at 5 p.m. Saturday.

The winners of Saturday’s games will square off in the NCAA Division II Tournament Central Regional championship game at 7 p.m. Monday.