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Senior Day: Tech Hosts OBU Saturday

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Arkansas Tech University may never again experience consecutive basketball seasons like the ones it has enjoyed the last two years. On Saturday, Wonder Boys’ and Golden Suns’ fans will show their appreciation for nine seniors who helped make it possible. Arkansas Tech will host Ouachita Baptist in the final games of the 2010-11 regular season at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville. The nationally fourth-ranked Golden Suns (23-2 overall, 12-1 Gulf South Conference) will host the Ouachita Baptist Lady Tigers (19-6, 10-3) at 4 p.m. Saturday. The nationally ninth-ranked Wonder Boys (22-3, 13-0) will take on the Ouachita Baptist Tigers (10-15, 5-8) at 6 p.m. Arkansas Tech’s nine basketball seniors --- Laura Beth Anderson, Shaquilah Davis, Jenny Vining, James Causey, Jeremy Dunbar, James Giles, Laithe Massey, Ridas Pulkauninkas and Willie Sanders --- will be honored during Senior Day ceremonies. The Tucker Coliseum ticket office will open at 3 p.m. Those with a valid Tech identification card will be admitted free. Arkansas Tech has a combined overall basketball record of 106-10 for its men’s and women’s programs since the start of the 2009-10 season.

It is the most successful two-year run for Arkansas Tech basketball in terms of combined winning percentage (.914) since the addition of women’s basketball as an official intercollegiate sport in 1977-78.

This is the fifth set of back-to-back seasons in which the Wonder Boys and the Golden Suns have combined to win more than 80 percent of their games:

*1988-89 and 1989-90: 109-26 (.807)
*1992-93 and 1993-94: 110-26 (.809)
*1993-94 and 1994-95: 113-23 (.831)
*2008-09 and 2009-10: 103-23 (.817)
*2009-10 and 2010-11: 106-10 (.914)

The similarities between the current crop of Arkansas Tech basketball teams and those from the mid-1990s do not stop at winning games. They extend to winning championships.

Arkansas Tech won Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference men’s and women’s basketball championships in 1993-94 and 1994-95 --- the final two years of the AIC.

Now, as Arkansas Tech concludes its Gulf South Conference era and prepares to move on to the new NCAA Division II Great American Conference next season, history is repeating itself. The Wonder Boys have already clinched their second consecutive GSC West Division men’s basketball title. The Golden Suns, who were co-champions of the GSC West with Delta State last season, have clinched a share of their second consecutive GSC West women’s basketball title. The Suns can win the GSC West outright with a victory over Ouachita Baptist on Saturday. And while the Wonder Boys have already wrapped up the regular season league title, there are still two important matters at hand for their game against the Tigers. First is the immediate business of the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Wonder Boys entered the week ranked sixth in the NCAA Division II South Region.

Only eight teams will be invited to the NCAA Division II South Regional, so Arkansas Tech’s men must keep winning to assure themselves of a third consecutive berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Then there is the history element of Saturday’s men’s contest at Tucker Coliseum.

If the Wonder Boys can defeat Ouachita Baptist it will complete the first undefeated run through conference play for Arkansas Tech in men’s basketball since 1957-58, when legendary head coach Sam Hindsman guided Tech to a 10-0 record in AIC action.

Only two teams --- the 1984-85 Jacksonville State Gamecocks and the 2005-06 Delta State Statesmen --- have ever gone through a GSC men’s basketball regular season with an undefeated league record.

The Golden Suns, ranked No. 2 in the NCAA Division II South Region, are on solid footing for a berth in the NCAA Division II Tournament.

Tech’s women have their own history to play for on Saturday. The Golden Suns have won 32 consecutive games at Tucker Coliseum. It is the third-longest home winning streak in Tech women’s basketball history.

If the Golden Suns can extend that streak to 33 in a row, it would give their seniors --- Anderson, Davis and Vining --- an undefeated career record in regular season home games. All three Golden Suns’ seniors transferred to Arkansas Tech at the beginning of their junior seasons in 2009-10.

Of course, the Golden Suns hope that Saturday is not their final home game of the season. If Arkansas Tech can surpass regionally top-ranked Delta State in the regional rankings by the end of the GSC Tournament March 3-6 in Southaven, Miss., the Golden Suns would be in position to host the NCAA Division II South Regional for a second consecutive year.

Radio station KWKK 100.9 FM will broadcast Saturday’s games in the Arkansas River Valley. There will be live video and live audio feeds available at http://www.athletics.atu.edu/.

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