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Senior Day: Tech Hosts SAU Saturday

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It’s difficult to find anything in life that is successful 88 percent of the time.
So to accomplish what the Arkansas Tech University basketball programs have done over the past three seasons --- win 88 percent of their games and put together the best combined three-year stretch in the history of Wonder Boys and Golden Suns basketball --- is a noteworthy achievement.
Arkansas Tech will say farewell to eight seniors who helped make it possible when it hosts Southern Arkansas University for its final regular season doubleheader of the 2011-12 basketball season on Saturday, Feb. 25, at Tucker Coliseum.
Tip-off for the nationally 13th-ranked Arkansas Tech Golden Suns (21-3 overall, 12-3 Great American Conference) and the SAU Lady Muleriders (2-23, 2-13) is set for 4 p.m. Saturday.
The nationally 17th-ranked Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys (20-5, 12-3) will tangle with the SAU Muleriders (13-14, 6-9) at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Tickets will be available at the door at promotional prices of $5 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens. Those with a valid Arkansas Tech identification card will be admitted free of charge.
Arkansas Tech has a combined overall won-lost record of 157-22 for its two basketball teams since the beginning of the 2009-10 season. The Wonder Boys and the Golden Suns have combined to win six regular season conference basketball championships during that three-year span.

Among the approximately 300 schools that participate in NCAA Division II basketball, Arkansas Tech is one of just four institutions currently ranked in both the men’s and women’s national top 25 polls.
On Saturday, eight key figures in building that success will take the Tucker Coliseum floor for a regular season game for the final time.

The Golden Suns’ four 2011-12 seniors are forwards Natalia Santos of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Katie Horsman of Fairfield Bay, Samanta Ludwig of Toledo, Brazil, and Lindsey Root of Marion.

Santos, Horsman and Ludwig have all earned three letters at Arkansas Tech. They were part of NCAA Division II South Region championship teams in 2010 and 2011. Entering Saturday, they have a career record of 82-9 in three years in the green and gold.

Santos will finish among the top 15 Golden Suns of all time in both career scoring and career rebounding. She was named an honorable mention All-American in 2011.

Horsman will rank among the six most prolific 3-point shooters in Arkansas Tech women’s basketball history when her career is over, and she ranks among the top 10 scorers in the GAC this season.

Ludwig is perhaps the most improved player on the team in 2011-12. At 8.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game this season, she has more than doubled her previous career averages in those categories. 

Root joined the Golden Suns at the beginning of the 2010-11 season and has contributed to one region title and 51 wins over a two-year span.

“Tucker Coliseum should be packed on Saturday,” said Arkansas Tech head women’s basketball coach Dave Wilbers. “It’s time. We’re asking all of the fans to come out because we have four seniors on this team who have done a great job for us. Think about all the wins they’ve had, all the tough situations they’ve been in and all of the injuries they have overcome. I hope that our fans will come out and thank them.”

Saturday will also mark the final regular season home game for four Wonder Boys seniors --- guards Johnie Davis of Canton, Ohio, Mykel Cleveland of Mobile, Ala., and Matt Haney of Dardanelle, along with forward Blake Mitchem of Fort Smith.

Haney is the longest tenured member of the Arkansas Tech men’s basketball senior class. He joined the Wonder Boys as a walk-on and has earned three letters at Tech, building himself into a starter who is averaging 10.5 points per game as a senior.

Davis topped the 1,000-point career scoring plateau in just two seasons with the Wonder Boys. Mitchem also played two years at Tech, while Cleveland leads the GAC in assist-to-turnover ratio in his one and only season as a Wonder Boy.

“I think that Johnie Davis should be player of the year in our conference this year,” said Arkansas Tech head men’s basketball coach Doug Karleskint when asked about his seniors. “Mykel Cleveland is a guy who has come in this year, started almost every game at point guard for us and had some huge games. Matt Haney has been our rock and our glue for two years now. Blake Mitchem works hard every day in practice and I’ll always think of that 10-point, nine-rebound game he had against Harding this year when I remember him.”

In addition to saying goodbye to eight seniors, Saturday’s games will also have big meaning for both Arkansas Tech teams as they look forward to the postseason.

For the Golden Suns, Saturday presents a chance to clinch the inaugural GAC women’s basketball championship outright. Arkansas Tech assured itself of no worse than a share of the league title when it defeated Ouachita Baptist 80-70 on Thursday.

Tech’s women are also operating with a slim margin for error when it comes to earning an at-large berth into the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Golden Suns are ranked eighth in this week’s NCAA Division II South Central Region rankings, and only eight teams from the region will advance to the NCAA Tournament in two weeks.

For the Wonder Boys, Saturday is about rebuilding confidence and shoring up their position in the regional rankings. Arkansas Tech suffered an 80-76 loss at Ouachita Baptist on Thursday, but the Wonder Boys still clinched the GAC men’s basketball title outright when Southern Arkansas knocked off second-place Henderson State 69-64.

Arkansas Tech is ranked third in the most recent NCAA Division II South Central Region men’s basketball rankings. Eight men’s teams from the region will also move on to the NCAA Tournament in two weeks.

Saturday’s Arkansas Tech-SAU games can be heard on KWKK 100.9 FM and

After hosting Southern Arkansas, the Golden Suns and the Wonder Boys will prepare for the inaugural Great American Conference Basketball Tournament March 1-4 at Bruin Fieldhouse in Bartlesville, Okla.

The Wonder Boys will play their first-round game at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 1, while the Golden Suns will make their GAC Tournament debut at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 2. The GAC Tournament semifinals will be played on Saturday, March 3, and the championship contests are set for Sunday, March 4.

Radio station KWKK 100.9 FM and will have play-by-play of every Arkansas Tech game from the GAC Tournament.

(Photographed, top row, left to right: Natalia Santos, Katie Horsman, Samanta Ludwig and Lindsey Root; photographed, bottom row, left to right: Johnie Davis, Matt Haney, Mykel Cleveland and Blake Mitchem)