With approximately one-third of the 2021-22 Great American Conference basketball schedule in the books, a few truths have emerged.
Nationally 17th-ranked Southwestern Oklahoma State University (14-2 overall, 8-0 GAC) has separated itself as the best women’s team in the league. The Lady Bulldogs have a three-game lead on the field and their last seven GAC wins have come by 12 points or more.
Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s 103-73 win over Southern Arkansas University on Saturday leads one (or at least me) to believe the Savage Storm (11-2, 6-1) is the team to beat on the men’s side of the conference.
Northwestern Oklahoma State University (9-5, 5-3) is clearly the most improved women’s team in the GAC. The Rangers have already surpassed their league win total from last season and senior forward Bailey Brown (top six in the league in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and free throw percentage) is in the mix for GAC player of the year honors.
The University of Arkansas-Monticello (8-4, 4-2) is the most pleasant surprise in GAC men’s basketball so far this season. The defending GAC Tournament champion Boll Weevils were picked to finish last in the league after they lost their coaching staff and almost their entire roster during the off-season, but a 4-0 record at home has helped UAM exceed expectations thus far.
It was a mixed bag for the Arkansas Tech Golden Suns (7-4, 4-3) during their road trip to Oklahoma last week.
The Suns played perhaps their best game of the season in an 80-52 win at Southern Nazarene University last Thursday. Less than 48 hours later, ATU held an eight-point lead going to the fourth quarter before falling to Oklahoma Baptist University 90-80.
The Golden Suns were 3-of-17 from the field during the fourth quarter and they missed seven of their final nine free throw attempts in the loss at Shawnee. It was the continuation of a recent trend for ATU’s women, who are shooting 62 percent at the free throw line over their last five games.
“We’ve got to start making some free throws,” said Dave Wilbers, ATU head women’s basketball coach. “There were several times in the (Oklahoma Baptist) game when we were up two or three points and we missed two free throws. It’s a momentum thing.”
This week’s schedule for Arkansas Tech basketball begins Thursday, Jan. 13, with a women’s game between the Golden Suns and the Harding Lady Bisons (8-5, 4-4). Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m. at Rhodes-Reaves Field House in Searcy.
There will be no men’s game between ATU and Harding on Thursday due to COVID-19 protocols within the Bisons’ program.
The ATU Wonder Boys (5-5, 2-2), who have seen five consecutive games postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, will hope to play their first game in 28 days on Saturday, Jan. 15. Arkansas Tech and Ouachita Baptist University are scheduled to play a doubleheader at Vining Arena in Arkadelphia. Game times on Saturday are 1 p.m. (women) and 3 p.m. (men).
Live coverage of all three ATU games this week will be provided by KCJC 102.3 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com.
Talk to you on the radio.
Tech Tidbits is a column written by Sam Strasner, ATU director of university relations and radio play-by-play voice for ATU football and basketball.