It will be a case of a familiar opponent in unfamiliar surroundings for the nationally 21st-ranked Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys when they take on the Southern Arkansas Muleriders in the first round of the 2012 Great American Conference Tournament on Thursday, March 1.
Tip-off at Bruin Fieldhouse in Bartlesville, Okla., is set for 6 p.m. Radio station KWKK 100.9 FM will have the broadcast in the Arkansas River Valley.
Click here to access an Internet stream of the broadcast.
It will be the second meeting in less than a week between the Wonder Boys (21-5) and the Muleriders (13-15). Arkansas Tech defeated SAU 74-66 in the regular season finale at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville on Saturday.
Their rematch will mark the third time this season that the Wonder Boys have faced the same opponent in back-to-back games. Arkansas Tech encountered the same scenario when it played Christian Brothers on Nov. 22 and Nov. 29 and when it took on Central Oklahoma on Dec. 3 and Dec. 10.
“It’s mostly about us right now,” said Wonder Boys head coach Doug Karleskint. “It’s about correcting the mistakes that (SAU) forced us into. We’ve had some good practices, and we’ve been able to go back and work on some fundamentals while still keeping the guys’ legs fresh. That is critical in March.”
Arkansas Tech’s NCAA Division II conference tournament history in men’s basketball can be divided into two segments — everything before 2008, and everything from 2008 forward.
From the first year they were eligible for NCAA postseason play (1998) through 2007, the Wonder Boys only qualified for the Gulf South Conference Tournament one time, and that resulted in a 70-57 loss to West Florida in the first round of the 2000 GSC Tournament.
It would be eight years until Arkansas Tech returned to the men’s basketball postseason, but once it made it back, Tech was ready for prime time.
The Wonder Boys were 9-2 in the GSC Tournament from 2008-2011, and they claimed the tournament championship in both 2009 and 2010.
As a new era begins in the Great American Conference and a new venue is visited for the first time, Arkansas Tech hopes it can shift that success from Southaven, Miss., to Bartlesville, Okla.
“I’ve heard great reviews of Bartlesville and what they do in terms of putting on a tournament,” said Karleskint. “The people of the community really get behind it and support it. Hopefully we can have the same success there that we had in Southaven.”
The Wonder Boys are led in scoring by senior guard Johnie Davis, who is the top scorer in the GAC this season at 20.6 points per game.
Junior guard Jared Williamson (12.0 points per game), senior guard Matt Haney (10.4 points per game) and junior center Will Paul (10.0 points per game) also average double figures in scoring for Arkansas Tech.
Southern Arkansas, which lost six of its last seven regular season games, features the talents of junior point guard Rodney Hill. He leads the Muleriders in scoring (12.7 points per game) and ranks first in the GAC in assists (4.7 per game).
The winner of the Arkansas Tech-SAU game will advance to the GAC Tournament semifinal round at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 3. The men’s title game is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 4.
All games at the GAC Tournament will be played at Bruin Fieldhouse in Bartlesville.
Click here to learn more about Arkansas Tech men’s basketball.]]>