No. 4 Golden Suns Visit Lady Bisons Thursday

It would not be an easy chore to come up with an offensive game plan to prepare for the nationally fourth-ranked Arkansas Tech Golden Suns basketball team. After all, teams might face man-to-man defense, a straight 2-3 zone defense, half-court traps and even the occasional full-court press when Arkansas Tech is next on their schedule. Head coach Dave Wilbers and the Golden Suns (22-2 overall, 11-1 Gulf South Conference) will hope to use their defensive bag of tricks to take another step toward the GSC West title when they visit the Harding Lady Bisons (17-7, 8-4) on Thursday, Feb. 24. Tip-off at Rhodes Field House in Searcy is set for 5:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast in the Arkansas River Valley by KWKK 100.9 FM.

Click here to access an Internet stream of the broadcast.

“I think we are hard to prepare for because we play a lot of different defenses,” said Wilbers, who is 98-20 in four years with the Golden Suns. “We evaluate the personnel of each opponent and try to take away some of their strengths. We also look at our strengths versus that team.

“Sometimes it’s just by feel,” continued Wilbers. “There are nights that we are playing better in man-to-man and there are nights we are better in a zone. We always have three or four defenses ready for every game, and another big part of it is which defense we can rebound out of. That’s always a big key in our game because those defensive rebounds lead to transition opportunities for our offense.” Arkansas Tech has won eight consecutive games. The Golden Suns hold a one-game lead over nationally fifth-ranked Delta State (22-2, 10-2) in the race for the GSC West Division title. Tech’s margin for error is even thinner when you consider the remaining schedule for the Golden Suns and the Lady Statesmen.

Arkansas Tech, ranked No. 2 in the NCAA Division II South Region, closes with Harding and Ouachita Baptist, two teams that have clinched berths in the GSC Tournament March 3-6 in Southaven, Miss.

Delta State, ranked No. 1 in the NCAA Division II South Region, has a much easier final week of the season. The Lady Statesmen will tune-up for the postseason by taking on Christian Brothers (Thursday) and Arkansas-Monticello (Saturday), two teams with a combined record of 14-34 this season. Harding, which already owns a home win over Delta State this season, is 9-2 at Rhodes Field House during the 2010-11 women’s basketball season.

The Lady Bisons are ranked ninth in this week’s NCAA Division II South Region rankings, which puts them squarely on the bubble for a berth in the NCAA Division II Tournament. Eight teams will be invited to participate in the NCAA Division II South Regional. Harding’s best chance to get off the bubble and into the big dance might be its defense. The Lady Bisons lead the GSC and rank 17th in NCAA Division II in field goal percentage defense (.349). That defense forced Arkansas Tech into a slow start in the first meeting between the two teams this season, but the Golden Suns used an 18-5 run in the second half to break free for a 77-67 victory over the Lady Bisons on Jan. 27.

“Harding is a good defensive team,” said Wilbers. “They were stopping us and we took some bad shots. After those first 10 minutes we started getting into a better flow, getting some post touches and achieved a good balance with our scoring. We have to play better at their place. They have experienced players and we’ll have to be on top of our game.”

After visiting Harding, the Golden Suns will return home for their final regular season game of 2010-11 at Tucker Coliseum. Arkansas Tech will entertain Ouachita Baptist, which is ranked seventh in the NCAA Division II South Region, at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 26.

Tickets will go on sale at Tucker Coliseum at 3 p.m. Saturday. Those with a valid Tech identification card will be admitted free.

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