When the pressure starts to heat up and each possession becomes more meaningful late in a basketball season, the ability to score easy baskets becomes more valuable than ever.
Nationally seventh-ranked Arkansas Tech (23-2 overall, 10-2 Gulf South Conference) will look to use a decided advantage in the post to leverage some of those easy looks at the basket when the Golden Suns visit the Arkansas-Monticello Cotton Blossoms (10-14, 4-8) in GSC action on Thursday night.
Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m. at Steelman Field House. Russellville radio station KWKK 100.9 FM and www.athletics.atu.edu will have live play-by-play coverage.
Arkansas Tech enters the game tied with Delta State for first place in the GSC West Division standings with two regular season games remaining.
Delta State is at Harding on Thursday night before it hosts Henderson State on Saturday.
The Golden Suns will finish their regular season by hosting Christian Brothers at 4 p.m. Saturday at Tucker Coliseum.
One of the reasons that Arkansas Tech is in the GSC West title hunt is pretty simple — the Suns shoot the basketball really well. Tech is sixth in NCAA Division II in field goal percentage (.483).
Two of the biggest factors behind that statistic are 6-foot-2 sophomore post Natalia Santos (photographed) and 6-foot freshman forward Jessica Weatherford.
Santos ranks third in the GSC and 18th in the nation in field goal percentage (.546), while Weatherford is seventh in the GSC in that category (.508).
They should have an opportunity to improve on those lofty shooting percentages on Thursday against a UAM team that only has one player taller than 5-foot-10.
But Tech head coach Dave Wilbers knows that even with that height advantage there is more to it than just feeding the post time and time again.
“We always try to have a good balance offensively,” said Wilbers. “When we’re hitting 3-point shots, it usually opens up the low-post area. We need to attack inside, but we also need to attack in our transition game. I think one thing we’ve lacked the last couple of weeks is 3-pointers in transition.”
Santos had 16 points and 12 rebounds and the Golden Suns held a 34-20 advantage in points in the paint in a 75-53 win over UA-Monticello on Feb. 6, but it wasn’t just the post players who got in on the act that night.
Junior guard Laura Beth Anderson had 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field. The Springdale product ranks fourth in the GSC in field goal percentage (.529).
Anderson also had five assists and five steals against UAM while leading Tech to a 32-15 edge in points off turnovers.
And while the Golden Suns were scoring in transition and scoring in the paint, the Cotton Blossoms could not find the range from beyond the 3-point arc.
Two days before coming to Russellville, UAM had hit 11-of-21 3-pointers in a win over Christian Brothers. Against Tech, the Blossoms were just 1-of-23 from 3-point territory.
Wilbers knows that UAM’s perimeter shooting will be better at home.
“They do a good job with their guards of penetrating our zone,” said Wilbers. “They shoot better at home, and they play with more energy at home. It will be tough, but these are the kinds of road games that you need to win if you are going to win a conference championship.”]]>