Suns, Wonder Boys Visit UAM Thursday

Round two of the Great American Conference double round robin basketball schedule begins on Thursday night, and that means one thing — the teams that make the proper adjustments are the teams that will come out on top. Arkansas Tech will visit Arkansas-Monticello for a GAC doubleheader at Steelman Field House in Monticello on Thursday, Feb. 2. Tip-off for the women’s game between nationally 13th-ranked Arkansas Tech (13-3 overall, 5-3 GAC) and the UAM Cotton Blossoms (6-12, 2-6) is set for 5:30 p.m. GAC co-leader Arkansas Tech (14-4, 6-2) and the UAM Boll Weevils (15-5, 5-3) will begin their contest at 7:30 p.m. Both games can be heard on KWKK 100.9 FM.

Click here to access an Internet stream of the broadcast. Balance and parity are the watch words of the GAC basketball season so far. Six teams are within three games of the lead in the GAC women’s standings. On the men’s side, there are six teams within two games of the lead. “Watching tape over the last couple of games, you see more teams going zone on defense and trying to take their opponents out of their comfort area and disrupt timing,” said Wonder Boys head coach Doug Karleskint when asked about adjustments as the conference season unfolds. “You’ve got to go with what is successful during that game. You can’t be afraid to try anything. We try to incorporate some of those things into our practice plan so that we can throw it out there in games when the time is right.” Arkansas Tech is tied with Henderson State (11-7, 6-2) for first place in the men’s GAC basketball standings, but one of the Wonder Boys’ losses was to their opponent on Thursday night. UA-Monticello came to Russellville and defeated Arkansas Tech 78-69 on Jan. 5. It remains the Wonder Boys’ only home loss of the season. Arkansas-Monticello is 9-0 at home this season, so Tech has a chance to repay the favor on Thursday night. “I think that we became a better team after that loss, especially offensively,” said Karleskint. “We were so flat coming out, and you have to tip your hat to Monticello. They made us pay for it, and before we knew it we were down 15 points. I think the guys are excited. Our guys took it personal when Monticello came into our house and beat us.” Arkansas Tech is the hunter rather than the hunted in the women’s GAC standings. The Golden Suns are in sole possession of third place, two games behind front-running Southwestern Oklahoma State (12-5, 7-1) and one game behind second-place Harding (13-5, 6-2). “We look at what was successful the first time we faced an opponent and some things that weren’t as successful,” said Golden Suns head coach Dave Wilbers when asked about making adjustments the second time through the league schedule. “After you face an opponent for the first time you know their personnel a little bit better and their tendencies. We’ve had three days of practice that have allowed us to put some new things in. I think all good coaches make adjustments, and the coaches in our league do a good job of adjusting even during a game.” All of the Arkansas teams in the GAC will have to make another adjustment in February.

Recent years in the Gulf South Conference meant that only four of eight teams from the GSC West Division advanced to the postseason. Not so in the Great American Conference, where eight of the nine teams will make it to the GAC Tournament March 1-4 in Bartlesville, Okla. That means that teams like UA-Monticello, which is tied for seventh in the GAC women’s standings, will have something to play for until the final day of the regular season. “Those seeds in the conference tournament are important,” said Wilbers. “Everybody is playing for that. Monticello is playing really well right now. They are scoring a lot of points, playing good defense and generally playing at a high level. This is the best UAM team in the last several years, and they’ve improved throughout the season.” The Golden Suns defeated Arkansas-Monticello 76-68 in Russellville on Jan. 5. Arkansas Tech rallied from a four-point deficit in the final 11 minutes to defeat the Cotton Blossoms for a sixth consecutive time. The Suns are 11-1 against UAM since the beginning of the 2006-07 season.