Say goodbye like they said hello --- that’s the goal for the Arkansas Tech Golden Suns at the Gulf South Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament this weekend. Nationally second-ranked Arkansas Tech (24-2) will take on West Georgia (9-17) in the first round of the 2011 GSC Tournament on Thursday, March 3. Tip-off at the DeSoto Civic Center in Southaven, Miss., is set for 2:45 p.m. The game will be broadcast in the Arkansas River Valley on KWKK 100.9 FM.
Click here to access an Internet stream of the broadcast.
The GSC Tournament has always been good to the Golden Suns. They announced their presence by winning the event in their very first year of eligibility to do so --- 1998. Since then, Arkansas Tech’s women have added GSC Tournament titles in 2003 and 2010. In 10 all-time appearances in the event, the Golden Suns have reached the championship game of the GSC Tournament nine times. Tech has an all-time record of 20-7 in the GSC Women’s Basketball Tournament. And now, the end is nigh. Arkansas Tech will move forward to the new NCAA Division II Great American Conference next season. If the Golden Suns can outlast the field and capture a second consecutive GSC Tournament title this weekend, it would give Arkansas Tech book end GSC Tournament championships to begin and end its Gulf South era.
The larger prize for winning this year’s GSC Tournament might very well be the opportunity to host the NCAA Division II South Regional for a second consecutive year. Dave Wilbers, who coached the Golden Suns to GSC Tournament and NCAA Division II South Region titles last season, hopes that his team’s postseason experience is an advantage this year. “I think experience is a big thing because you get to a point in your season where you either win or your season is over with,” said Wilbers, who earned his 100th win as Arkansas Tech head coach in the regular season finale. “Teams play a little bit harder. Every team looks at it as a new season and everybody believes they have a chance. We hope that we just keep going with our season since we’ve won 10 games in a row and played pretty well.” The first obstacle between the Golden Suns and all of those achievements is West Georgia. The Wolves have lost four of their last six games, but they made it to Southaven with a 66-60 victory over West Florida on the final day of the regular season. Arkansas Tech defeated West Georgia 66-56 earlier this season in a non-conference game played at Carrollton, Ga., on Nov. 29, 2010. Natalia Santos scored 20 points for the Golden Suns, who finished with a 14-0 edge in fast-break points. One change between the first meeting and this one that Wilbers would like to see is his team’s rebounding performance. The Wolves out-rebounded the Golden Suns 47-34 and West Georgia grabbed 24 offensive rebounds when the two sides met in November. “They really whipped us on the boards at West Georgia,” said Wilbers. “It’s something we’ve watched a lot of tape on, and our players have watched tape. We know their personnel and we know their schemes, but we’re really going to have to battle on the boards or it’s going to be a very difficult game. “We’re a lot better team than we were the first meeting, but so is West Georgia,” continued Wilbers. “They control tempo and try to minimize the number of possessions in the game. West Georgia is very good defensively.” The Wolves rank fifth in the GSC in scoring defense (60.8 points allowed per game). Arkansas Tech counters with an offense that leads the GSC and ranks fourth in NCAA Division II in scoring offense (84.3 points per game).
The Golden Suns are on pace to break the school record for scoring average in a season set by the 1991-92 Suns, who averaged 80.7 points per game on their way to a 35-1 record and the 1992 NAIA national championship.
The winner of the Arkansas Tech-West Georgia game will advance to the GSC Tournament semifinals at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 5, where it will face either Ouachita Baptist or Valdosta State.
The women’s GSC Tournament championship game is scheduled for Sunday, March 6, at 1 p.m. All games during the tournament will be played at the DeSoto Civic Center in Southaven, Miss.
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