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Suns, Wonder Boys Visit UNA Saturday

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Arkansas Tech has played 17 basketball games this season --- nine by its men’s team and eight by its women’s squad. Tech has won all 17. Now, it is time for the nationally fifth-ranked Wonder Boys and the nationally 24th-ranked Golden Suns to test themselves on the road. Arkansas Tech will begin a three-day trip by taking on North Alabama in a non-conference doubleheader at Flowers Hall in Florence, Ala., on Saturday. Tip-off for the women’s game is set for 1 p.m. The men will start at 3 p.m. Both games will be broadcast by Russellville radio station KWKK 100.9 FM. The broadcast will be streamed over the Internet at www.athletics.atu.edu. The Wonder Boys (9-0) have played seven of their first nine games at Tucker Coliseum, including an 80-68 win over Ecclesia College on Thursday. It was the 11th consecutive home win for Tech’s men, but it was not an outing that left head coach Mark Downey pleased. “We’re not good enough to come with that focus and that effort,” said Downey of his team’s performance against Ecclesia. “We’ve got to do what we do, which is pressure the basketball, be smart, come ready to play and out-scrap people. We’re not good enough to just show up at the gym and beat people.

“If we show up with that intensity and that focus on Saturday, we’ll be in trouble,” continued Downey. “That No. 5 ranking puts a target on your back. Everyone wants to get you, and let alone it’s North Alabama. We’ve had a great rivalry with them, and they’ll come for our heads. We’ve got to get better.” Saturday will mark the second meeting between the North Alabama Lions (5-4) and the Wonder Boys this season.

Tech defeated UNA 88-73 in Russellville on Dec. 5. Brandon Friedel hit 7-of-9 from 3-point range and scored 27 points to help the Wonder Boys overcome a 26-point effort by North Alabama’s Jared Strode. Strode, a 6-foot-5 senior guard, leads the GSC in scoring at 22.3 points per game. Friedel ranks third in the league with an 18.2 points per game average. The Lions have won their last three home games, and they have scored 90 or more points in all three of those victories. Like the Wonder Boys, Arkansas Tech’s women have only ventured away from Tucker Coliseum for two games so far this year. The Suns defeated Wayne State (Mich.) and Upper Iowa in a pair of neutral-site games in Rolla., Mo., on Nov. 20-21. “We need some games like these,” said Tech head women’s basketball coach Dave Wilbers. “We haven’t played a true road game yet, and we’ll be challenged. North Alabama’s starting five is as good as anyone in the conference. We need to test our game against somebody on their home floor.” The Golden Suns completed their first 8-0 start to a season in 24 years on Sunday when they defeated St. Gregory’s 95-57. Jenny Vining had 19 points in the win, while Natalia Santos added 16 points. Santos (16.3 points per game) and Vining (15.4 points per game) give the Suns two of the top seven scorers in the GSC. The North Alabama women are 4-7 this year. The Lions have lost three of their last four women’s games, and they will be playing for the first time in 10 days on Saturday. Southern Indiana beat North Alabama’s women 91-62 on Dec. 9. UNA features 5-foot-11 junior forward Niala Harris. She averages a team-high 12.2 points per game and she ranks fifth in the GSC in rebounding (7.5 per game). Harris grabs 3.36 offensive rebounds per contest, third-most in the GSC. After their visit to Florence, the Arkansas Tech basketball teams will troop on across the Yellowhammer State for a Monday doubleheader at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The women’s game on Monday will start at 5:30 p.m., while the men’s contest between Tech and UAH will begin at 7:30 p.m. Broadcasts of both of those games can also be heard on KWKK 100.9 FM and at www.athletics.atu.edu.

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