OBU, Arkansas Tech Square Off Thursday

Perhaps never in its 36-year history has Tucker Coliseum seen a greater range of emotions in a single night than it did on Feb. 26, 2011. That was the last time that Ouachita Baptist University visited Arkansas Tech University for a basketball doubleheader. On Thursday, Jan. 26, the Tigers and the Lady Tigers will make their return to Tucker Coliseum. Tip-off for the women’s contest between nationally 13th-ranked Arkansas Tech (11-3 overall, 3-3 Great American Conference) and Ouachita Baptist (11-5, 4-2) is set for 5:30 p.m. Game time for the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys (12-4, 4-2) and the Ouachita Baptist Tigers (11-5, 4-2) will be 7:30 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door at new promotional prices of $5 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens. The promotional prices will be in effect for the remainder of the 2011-12 basketball regular season.

Those with a valid Arkansas Tech identification card will be admitted free of charge. There were storylines aplenty the last time Tech and OBU met for a doubleheader.

Arkansas Tech needed a win to clinch the 2011 Gulf South Conference West Division women’s basketball championship outright in its final year of GSC membership.

On the men’s side, Arkansas Tech was going for its first undefeated conference record in 53 years and just the third undefeated league record in GSC history.

It was the final regular season doubleheader of the season, so there was also the matter of saying farewell to nine Arkansas Tech senior basketball players who helped the Golden Suns and the Wonder Boys put together their best combined two-year run ever. There was even an engagement between games.

Those scenarios combined to take Arkansas Tech fans on a five-and-a-half hour ride that will long be remembered as one of the most exhausting nights in Tucker Coliseum history.

The Golden Suns trailed Ouachita Baptist by 11 points with less than five minutes remaining in the women’s game. Key contributors Laura Beth Anderson, Shaquilah Davis and Katie Horsman had four fouls apiece. The outlook, from an Arkansas Tech perspective, was beyond bleak.

But the Golden Suns held OBU without a made field goal for the final 5:01 of regulation, and Jessica Weatherford’s put-back basket with 1:07 left ultimately forced overtime. Tech won 100-97 and cut down the net on the north end of Tucker Coliseum.

“It was a great game and a high-scoring game,” said Arkansas Tech head women’s basketball coach Dave Wilbers, who notched his 100th career win that night. “There were not many missed shots. It was a high-level, entertaining game to watch and to be a part of. I think this game could be much the same. Ouachita still likes to shoot the ball quick with good 3-point shooters. If we can get a good flow going up and down the court, who knows, we might see another game like that.” After an emotional senior night ceremony for both Arkansas Tech teams, the Wonder Boys finally took the floor at 7:30 p.m. — an hour-and-a-half later than scheduled.

Maybe no one in green and gold had recovered from the events that had already transpired that night. Maybe the Wonder Boys were running on empty physically and emotionally after their own overtime win at Harding two nights earlier to clinch the men’s GSC West title.

Regardless, Arkansas Tech’s men got off to a slow start. Ouachita Baptist made its first seven 3-point field goal tries and built an 8-point lead.

Eventually, OBU’s Austin Mitchell was the difference. He made 5-of-9 shots from beyond the 3-point arc and scored 26 points to lead the Tigers to a 92-88 win over Arkansas Tech. Mitchell scored 13 points in the final 3:55, including a decisive, fade-away 3-pointer from the right corner with 23 seconds left.

“Ouachita ruined Senior Night for some good seniors last year,” said Arkansas Tech head men’s basketball coach Doug Karleskint. “Austin Mitchell is one of the best shooters, if not the best shooter in the conference.”

Mitchell, a junior guard, leads OBU and ranks fourth in the GAC in scoring this season (18.9 points per game).

Arkansas Tech counters with the top scorer in the conference — senior guard Johnie Davis (22.8 points per game).

The Wonder Boys are 4-1 in their last five games, while the Tigers are 3-2 over that span. Tech’s men beat Harding 69-57 and OBU’s men suffered an 80-70 loss to Henderson State on Monday.

Leaders for the women’s teams include Ouachita Baptist senior guard A’Laeshia Adams (14.3 points per game) and Arkansas Tech senior forward Natalia Santos (19.0 points per game).

The Lady Tigers have won three of their last four games, while the Golden Suns have been victorious in two of their last three outings.

Radio station KWKK 100.9 FM will broadcast Thursday’s games.

Click here to access an Internet stream of the broadcasts.

Click here to learn more about Arkansas Tech Athletics.